India, Egypt, France… the axis of amateurs?

Feature story - January 18, 2006
Here, in a very brittle nutshell, are the events of the past week.

Activist Imran Khan on the mast of Asbestos Carrier Clemenceau.

The Clemenceau gets stopped by the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency on January 10th on grounds that it's an illicit convoy and will be turned back to the 'mother port' (France) unless documents are furnished by France to indicate that the ship is free of hazardous material, and documents furnished by the 'final port' (India) to indicate that they have the capability to deal with such scrap.

The French Ministry of Defense responds on January 11th stating there's no hazardous material on board the Clemenceau and that the asbestos has been totally removed. (Not a peep about the grossly-understated 45 tonnes that they've been communicating to the world thus far.)

Then, on January 12th, the same Egyptian authority sends another missive asking both France and India to furnish further documents affirming their respective commitments to the Basel Convention, failing which the Clemenceau would not be allowed passage through the Suez.

The French respond the same day with a certificate stating there's a valid contract with an Indian ship-breaker but neglect to mention, unsurprisingly, that the contract has been voided because the ship-breaker failed to comply with requirements laid down by India's SCMC in February 2005.

Now this is where the Gallic humour really kicks in. The French also furnish two documents so antiquated, these seem to have been burgled from the Museum of Ancient History in Ulan Bator.

The first is a note from the GMB (Gujarat Maritime Board) to the ship-breaker in Alang saying the Board has no objections to Clemenceau being dismantled at their yards.

The second is a note from the GPCB (Gujarat Pollution Control Board) to the aforementioned ship-breaker saying it is authorized to go ahead with its noble work.

Both documents hark back to October 2003.

But the French once again neglect to mention, also unsurprisingly, that these clearances are no longer valid as India's SCMC has consigned them to the shredder on two occasions since.

Where are the French getting all these documents from? The ship-breaker, of course.

Where is Egypt's EAA in all of this? Goose-stepping to Hosni Mubarak's martial music, of course.

Where is the Indian government through all of this? Missing, of course.

So this is what it's come down to. When you don't have a case, you do whatever it takes to create the semblance of one, never mind the vintage of the evidence. And the evidence submitted is so fragile, it'd have been easier to just forge some or, better still, outsource the highly-specialised job to a kindergarten kid with a crayon.

Moot question for the French government: if the Clemenceau is really as squeaky-clean as you make it out to be, why resort to such desperately puerile ploys to sneak it through the Suez?

Moot question for the Egyptian government: how is it that a civilization that gave mankind the calendar cannot tell that October 2003 is not exactly a very current date?

Moot question for the Indian government: is India still a sovereign socialist democratic republic that secures justice, liberty and equality for all its citizens? Or are you still a French colony?

Please send your answers, post-haste, to Greenpeace India. Our numbers are conveniently located below.

Download the documents between the French and Egyptian governments here.

Greenpeace Contacts:

Vivek Sharma, Media Officer


Vinuta Gopal, Toxics Campaigner


Ramapati Kumar, Toxics Campaigner


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