By Mano Ratwatte –
The Libyan Arab dictator murdered by US-UK backed rebels is in the news again over a photo which shows the flamboyant narcissistic and eccentric dictator Gaddaffi with his hand on President Rajapaksas’ shoulder and not the other way around. President Sirisena (acting defense minister 2009) now says the West was ticked off because of this photo. Libya is in chaos now with Islamic terrorists wreaking havoc only and only due to Western duplicitous interventions.
Mr. Rajapaksa says that the Libyan 500 million USD loan in emergency funds helped stem a potential collapse of the Lankan economy.
Iraqi blood is on Bush-Cheney and Blair(why is the Chilcott report still not out?) but Libya’s chaos is directly on the souls of Obama/Hillary-Cameron-Berlusconi etc. How did that experiment in democracy and regime change pan out?
Yet this might be a good time to share some anecdotal information about Muammar Gaddafi (MG) first. He was eccentric and flamboyant and very narcissistic. During the highly acclaimed and very successful Non-Aligned conference in 1976, there were security concerns about Gadaffi’s presence. He also brought lavish gifts for Sri Lankan leaders including fancy gold Rolex watches.
MG flew in late, refusing to cooperate with Sri Lankan authorities ahead of time and who were kept guessing; egotistical MG’s team went around throwing photos of his on the streets of Colombo causing a lot of annoyance to the well-disciplined trained Sri Lankan security teams who were coordinated by the incredible Cyril Herath of the Police.
MG was one of those leaders who gave a headache to the coordinating teams because of his unpredictability. He apparently even wanted to stay close to the then very young boy king of Bhutan at Hotel Ceylon Intercontinental. The speculative gossip about that is best left unsaid!
At that conference, Mrs. Bandaranaike did not have her son or her daughters in the delegation or ever have them anywhere in the Conference playing any part in official proceedings or banquets.
MG was trying hard to promote his brand of revolutionary politics and was viewed as a trouble maker by all the pro-western autocratic Arab oil rich kingdoms who were working only with the Western super powers: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait etc. who to this date are strong allies of the US.
MG also fancied himself as a new Pan Arab leader in the mould of Nasser even though he was never able to get much traction with that angle of projecting himself as a leader of Black Muslim Africa and Arab N.Africa in particular in contrast to the racist Arab nations who viewed blacks in contempt.
Relations between the Libyan and the Egyptian government had been deteriorating ever since the end of the Arab-Israeli war in October 1973 which led to the historic accords and end to war between Egypt and Israel because of Sadat. Since then not one shot has been fired in anger between those two nations and they recognize each other as nations. MG didn’t like Sadat’s peace policy Egypt viewed MG to be an irritant to peace and its national security; they even fought a border war in July 1977 (both are non-aligned overwhelmingly Arab Sunni nations unlike Iraq or Syria).
Later he became isolated from the west and from his brother Arab nations because of his eccentric behavior; the Libyan Government backed bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie Scotland on Dec 21st 1988 made it worse. Previously, Libyans were also responsible for some terrorist bombing of US interests in Germany in 1986.
Years of isolation and US targeting of him during Reagan days, which cost the life of one of his daughters, and sanctions pushed Libyan back by a few decades economically.
In 1999 MG handed over to the west the two main terrorist suspects after discussions to end UN sanctions on him. Libya was deemed as a pariah nation and not even the typical Soviet-China nexus bothered about him. Recent findings suggest that US also exaggerated threats from Libya. But reality is that because the sanctions took a toll on his nation and he was basically isolated from all his fellow Arab nations.
In 2003 MG finally admitted to the Pan Am terrorist attack and paid compensation to the families of victims. In 2011 it seems that the truth that MG himself had personally given the order for the Pan Am attack was revealed. After 2003, MG launched a PR campaign to become more acceptable to the West.
US disasters in Iraq and oil prices spiraling to new heights because of the instability saw the US and European former Colonial nations also taking an interest in healing relations with Libya: a primo source of what is called Sweet Light Crude which they had in abundance. Libya has an estimated 47bn barrels of proven oil reserves and while that looks small compared with, say, Saudi Arabia’s 265bn, it is a lot more than Britain can lay claim to (less than 3bn).The light “sweet” crude from Libya is not only very high quality, it can also easily be extracted from shallow wells in desert areas at a cost that some put as low as $2 a barrel – not bad if you can sell for $114 on the global market (before the price collapse). US-Italian and French companies started trading with him for that sweet light stuff that runs global economies.
Under MG and his thuggish sons, Libya was still not an autocratic absolute monarchy unlike Saudi Arabia KSA;the dangerous brand of Wahabi and Salafist ideologues emanate from KSA(also not from Saddam).
Libya established what MG thought was fair loving peaceful tolerant Islamic based utopia. Women had a right to work, be in the military, fly planes, become engineers and under MG all Libyan youth got a free education. He oppressed Islamic radicals who were a minimal threat to him in the Eastern part of Libya. The west was happy that he had controlled them militarily. His military interventions in Chad and other places should also be noted but basically his was a dictatorship but not a cruel one like Saddam’s.
Libya was the only nation in the world that did not bend to World Bank and IMF diktats and had after being reinstated to the UN and taking steps to regain its status helped many poor nations including Sri Lanka with his largesse.
Libya Factoids for President Sirisena
• There was no electricity bills in Libya; electricity is free … for all its citizens.
• There was no interest on loans, banks in Libya are state-owned and loans given to all its citizens at 0% interest by law.
• If a Libyan is unable to find employment after graduation, the state would pay the average salary of the profession as if he or she is employed until employment is found.
• Should Libyans want to take up a farming career, they receive farm land, a house, equipment, seed and livestock to kick start their farms –this was all for free.
• Gaddafi carried out the world’s largest irrigation project, known as the Great Man-Made River project, to make water readily available throughout the desert country.
• A home was considered a human right in Libya.
(In Qaddafi’s Green Book it states: “The house is a basic need of both the individual and the family, therefore it should not be owned by others.”)
• All newlyweds in Libya would receive 60,000 Dinar (US$ 50,000 ) by the government to buy their first apartment so to help start a family.
• A portion of Libyan oil sales is or was credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens. • A mother who gives birth to a child would receive US $5,000. • When a Libyan buys a car, the government would subsidizes 50% of the price.
• The price of petrol in Libya was $0.14 per liter.
• For $ 0.15, a Libyan local could purchase 40 loaves of bread. • Education and medical treatments was all free in Libya. Libya boasted one of the finest health care systems in the Arab and African World. All people have access to healthcare, completely free of charge.
• If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need in Libya, the government would fund them to go abroad for it – not only free but they get US $2,300/month accommodation and car allowance.
• 25% of Libyans have a university degree. Before Gaddafi only 25% of Libyans were literate. Today the figure is 87%.
• Libya had no external debt and its reserves amount to $150 billion – though much of this is now frozen globally.
Gaddafi once wrote, “They want to do to Libya what they did to Iraq and what they are itching to do to Iran. They want to take back the oil, which was nationalized by these country’s revolutions. They want to re-establish military bases that were shut”
The gold bullion held by the Libyan Central Bank (March 2011) was among the 25 largest reserves in the world, as reported by the Financial Times, citing the International Monetary Fund. This provided Libya a critical lifeline after billions of Libya’s assets were seized by the United States and the 27 member states of the European Union.
End Citation from CNN
MG was accepted back into the midst of nations; Blair, Cameron Bush all wanted to do business with him (especially after MG dismantled his nuclear program); then came the famous Arab Spring in 2010 starting in Tunisia and the West saw an opportunity to destabilize Libya as it was in their long laundry list of nations that have pissed them off and needed to be “taught a lesson”. Christian nations’ duplicity can be revealed by looking at some of these numbers
The EU granted export licenses for €834.5m worth of arms exports in the first five years after the arms embargo on Libya was lifted in October 2004
• 2009 is the highest amount ever: €343.7m
• Italy was the top exporter, with €276.7m over the five years
• The UK 2005:, €58.9m of the €72.2m total. UK licenses over the five years are worth €119.35m.
Some of the uprisings were not quite the same as the pro-Democracy uprisings in Egypt or Tunisia. They were violent uprisings started in the Eastern parts of Libya by Islamic radicals. US-UK-Italy-France helped destabilize a once stable dictatorship which is now in shambles and chaotic with Islamic Radical terrorists groups wreaking havoc across most parts of Libya. As was the case of Iraq and Syria, this was the work of the West.
By the time war criminal Blair posed, MG was rehabilitated in the West; they were queuing up to do business with him. When MG was cornered trying to flee, he was raped and murdered by those who hated him; US and UK could have stopped it to bring him to trial. They did nothing. The French, Blair and Cameron salivated at being able to sell weapons to MG and US loved getting access to Oil under MG.
Reality is MG stayed on for too long and created a typical familial personality cult; personality cults and extending political terms are not a good way to ensure stability and democratic progress.
What you are doing is right President Sirisena: realpolitik as Chancellor Willy Brandt said is what you have to do to help Sri Lanka not get isolated and become a Pariah nation as Libya once was. If US sees China as a threat under you, what will happen in Sri Lanka again?
President Sirisena, as Native American Indians used to say before they were shafted by cross bearing Christian white men, “sometimes White man speak with forked tongue.” Just be careful. If only Sri Lanka had Light Sweet Crude.