Stephen Lewis, Canada’s distinguished former UN Ambassador and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, speaks for Canadians of conscience:
“Talisman Energy is a ‘terrible cross of dishonour’ for Canada.”
[Globe & Mail, September 14, 2000]
Eric Reeves [September 14, 2000]
Smith College 413-585-3326
Northampton, MA 01063
Lewis’s comments were reported in The Globe & Mail today and in numerous other Canadian newspapers and news outlets. And his blunt call for action rather than more diplomatic flummery with Khartoum’s lying minions was a bracing dose of realism for the Winnipeg conference premised foolishly upon the good faith of Sudan’s emissaries.
The Globe & Mail captures the essence of Lewis’s attitudes towards Khartoum—
On Khartoum’s willingness to deal in good faith with the problems of children abducted in war: “In my entire adult life, I have never encountered such a venal mask of innocence in the face of such a
wanton destruction of children.”
On the regime’s credibility: “The capacity to manipulate and prevaricate wins out every time.”
On Khartoum’s relation to the LRA, responsible for so many abductions of innocent children: “[The LRA] would not survive without the government of Sudan,” Mr. Lewis said. “They have chosen together, consciously, to pursue their aims using children as sacrificial fodder.”
Despite such blunt truth-telling, it’s unlikely that Lloyd Axworthy will be able to use it to any good effect in Winnipeg. But the “terrible cross of dishonour” that Mr. Axworthy and Mr. Chretien have forced Canadians to wear can be removed. Talisman, business partner of the Khartoum regime that Lewis excoriates, can be forced from Sudan if Canadians refuse to own Talisman’s “dishonourable” shares. Canadians, and Canada as a nation, have the simple power to invest in companies that are not complicit in the massive destruction of innocent African lives.
Divestment from Talisman Energy shareholding has clearly become a moral imperative. There is no constructive engagement with a stubborn and deceitful corporate management, nor any way in which Talisman’s presence in Sudan can do anything but (in the words of the Harker Mission report) “add more suffering” to the “extraordinary suffering” of the Sudanese people.
For put most simply, oil (again in the words of the Harker report) “is exacerbating conflict in Sudan.”
Significantly, Stephen Lewis’s forceful effort to strip away the absurd veneer of respectability that Talisman has recently tried to paste upon its corporate greed found a powerful echo. For the UN has recently issued an extraordinary press release which explicitly disclaims **any** collaboration with Talisman, and takes the company brutally to task for trying to trade on UN prestige.
The press release refers to Talisman’s efforts to link themselves to the UN and other humanitarian organizations as “media propaganda.” The UN statement also demanded that Talisman refrain from further disingenuous and self-serving pronouncements. [release attached below]
This UN press release follows that of another group of humanitarian organizations similarly distressed by Talisman’s “media propaganda.” Within the community of real humanitarian effort in Sudan there is deep anger at Talisman’s efforts, not simply because they are disingenuous, distorting, and self-serving, but because they have created significant additional security risks for these organizations, which often operate in several areas of southern Sudan.
The choice is now before Canadians: Talisman share price has temporarily spiked with the price of crude oil. But if Canadians refuse to own Talisman shares, refuse to invest in a company that is pumping genocidal oil, Talisman will see its share price plummet and be forced to withdraw from Sudan. And should anyone dare to take up their stake in the Greater Nile project, they too will be faced with capital and retail market pressures that will make their presence untenable.
If governments won’t act to constrain corporate evil, then the people of Canada, and other countries, must exert—through the force of financial decisions—their own moral will.
PRESS RELEASE: UN Sudan Disclaims Collaboration with Talisman Energy Inc.
Khartoum, 31 August 2000 – Talisman Energy Inc., a Canadian Oil Company working in Sudan has recently claimed through its publications on the web and in its newsletter HOPE, that it is supporting UN agencies financially and is cooperating with them in humanitarian assistance programmes in Sudan.
These statements are incorrect.
Contrary to this media propaganda, UN Agencies involved in humanitarian relief activities in Unity State, and other areas of Sudan are not working with Talisman, do not have any agreements with them and have not received any funding from them.
Although it is acknowledged that Talisman is providing relief assistance in Unity State, the UN agencies working in the same area (WFP, UNOCHA, UNICEF) disclaim any collaboration with Talisman Energy Inc.
The UN would very much appreciate that Talisman refrain from making further public reference to any cooperation with the United Nations in Sudan.