War in Sudan? Malaysian Petronas Begs to Differ As the Oil Wealth Flows
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi paid a surprise visit to Darfur on Tuesday (17th April 2007) on the final day of his three-day visit to Sudan. For a short 2½-hour tour after visiting the Al-Salam refugee’s camp where 2,000 displaced villagers in huts built from mud bricks and thatched with straw, he urged the displaced villagers to return to their villages when the education board, medical services and water supply once reassured by the Sudanese government.
Well that’s fine and dandy. Aside, there’s war looming on every corners of their fragile life.
Abdullah also met Sudanese President Omer Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir, whose National Congress party two years ago signed a peace deal with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the party of Sudan’s First Vice-President Salva Kiir, ending a civil war that lasted 21 years. The PM as a chairman of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and as the head of nation second largest investor in Sudan after China (Petronas alone has invested RM5 billion) has this to say on the prospect of economy and peace:
“We will support whatever moves necessary to bring about peace. Peace will attract more interest from Malaysian businesses. It is ultimately economic development that will assist the people. Sudan is looking east (for development role models), and Malaysia is one of the countries it is looking to,” said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Following a drive through the Al-Salam camp for displaced villagers who fled earlier conflicts elsewhere, Abdullah concluded that refugees was Darfur’s most pressing problem.
“I feel strongly what is needed is a major concerted effort by countries friendly to Sudan and the OIC to overcome their (refugees) suffering.”
Surprisingly the news of economic prospect dominates more than the possibility of humanitarian effort. Accompanying the PM are:
- Petronas president and chief executive officer Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican.
- Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar.
- Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Ng Lip Yong.
- Nadicorp Holdings Bhd executive chairman Datuk Nadzmi Salleh (Peremba Bhd and Puncak Niaga Holdings Bhd).
The Malaysian delegation however omitted the aides from:
- Ministry of Education (Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein).
- Ministry of Health (Datuk Seri Dr. Chua Soi Lek — Pak Lah already predicted the sex tape, torrent can be found here).
- Ministry of Energy, Water and Telecommunications (Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik)
As needed for logistic purposes to rebuild “schools, medical services and water supply.”
A brand new Petronas headquarters complex will be open in Sudan. As “we” reaps a substantial profits from the 512,000 barrels a day of crude oil production from one of the poorest country with nation’s per capita income of only USD$640 in 2005 (USD$2,300 in 2006 while Malaysia’s GDP is USD$12,700 in 2006)—I wonder how much we really contribute to Sudanese in terms of humanity.
While one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises continues some 600 miles away in Darfur, across Khartoum bridges are being built, office towers are popping up, supermarkets are opening and flatbed trucks hauling plasma TV’s fight their way through thickening traffic.
Despite the image of Sudan as a land of cracked earth and starving people, the economy is booming, with little help from the West. Oil has turned it into one of the fastest growing economies in Africa — if not the world — emboldening the nation’s already belligerent government and giving it the wherewithal to resist Western demands to end the conflict in Darfur.
American sanctions have kept many companies from Europe and the United States out of Sudan, but firms from China, Malaysia, India, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are racing in. Direct foreign investment has shot up to $2.3 billion this year, from $128 million in 2000, all while the American government has tried to tighten the screws.
“Khartoum is hot — in all ways,” said Hashim Wahir, chairman of Petronas Sudan, a branch of the Malaysian national oil company.
It was 115 degrees outside, but Mr. Wahir was also talking about business.
As long as Asian countries are eager to trade with Sudan, despite its human rights record, the American embargo seems to have minimal effect. The country’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, keeps demonstrating his disdain for the West by refusing to allow United Nations peacekeepers into Darfur, despite continued bloodshed and pressure from the United States to let the peacekeepers in.
Mr. Ghazali Abd Aziz, as Petronas Project Engineer in Sudan, he gives us an insight on the work culture and lifestyle of the Sudanese and the Malaysian engineers in his blog. With an eye for photographic flair and a witty entries, it’s hard to acknowledge how cruel the world outside their sanctum sanctorum.
A Petronas OGP USD$8,800 per month rented bungalow:
Just outside the accommodation lies a Southern Sudanese refugee’s shanty:
“Hanya rasa simpati dan belas ajer yg mampu kami luahkan…sebab we can’t change the world.”
—Ghazali Abd Aziz, Petronas Project Engineer, Sudan.
To sympathize is easy, to empathize—harder.
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