Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I made a new boyfriend yesterday when I was shopping with the water engineer at New market. Mr. Green peace was selling calenders and he was really friendly when I asked if I could take his photo.

In Singapore, Delifrance is an up market fast food chain. resturant. I, in principle refuse to frequent this restaraunt. I think I wrote this about this before. My friends and daughters had asked why there isn't Delifrance in New Zealand.

I told them that Delifrance probably won't survive in NZ, and went on to tell them how the French had bombed the Greenpeace ship, the rainbow warrier in 1985. The ship was at the Auckland Wharf and that made it so close to home. It was a high profile case and likened to David and Goliath.

When they launched the replica, I took the kids to remind them how vulnerable we can be. My Dad said that the Prime Minister David Lange was like a flea and  New Zealand's "nuclear free" policy from a minority position to a national icon that even American pressure was unable to alter.

Operation Satanique was a public relations disaster. France, being an ally of New Zealand, initially denied involvement and joined in condemnation of a terrorist act.

After the bombing, a murder inquiry was started by the New Zealand Police. Most of the agents escaped New Zealand but two, Captain Dominique Prieur and Commander Alain Mafart - posing as married couple 'Sophie and Alain Turenge' and having Swiss passports - were captured due to a Neighbourhood Watch group. Both pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on November 22, 1985.

France threatened an economic embargo of New Zealand's exports to the European Economic Community if the pair were not released. Such an action would have crippled the New Zealand economy, which was dependent on agricultural exports to Britain.

In June 1986, in a political deal with Prime Minister of New Zealand David Lange and presided over by United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, France agreed to pay NZ$13 million (USD$6.5 million) to New Zealand and apologise, in return for which Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur would be detained at the French military base on Hao atoll for three years.

The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior
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In early 1985 the Rainbow Warrior had never looked better. It had a fresh coat of paint, a new radio and radar, and a complete engine overhaul. The crew remarked on how well the ship sailed. 

The ship was in Auckland, New Zealand, preparing to visit Moruroa Atoll for a major campaign against French nuclear testing. But the voyage was not to be.
Around 8.30pm, 10 July 1985, Jean-Michel Bartelo put on his scuba gear and slipped beneath the water, heading for the Rainbow Warrior.

At the time, a French volunteer known as Frederique Bonlieu was helping out in the Greenpeace office in Auckland. But Bonlieu was in fact Christine Cabon, a French secret service agent. In the office, she folded letters, sealed envelopes and sorted address labels. In secret, she monitored communication from the Rainbow Warrior, collected maps and investigated underwater equipment. Her mission was to lay the groundwork for French saboteurs who were coming to sink the Rainbow Warrior. 

The French wanted to stop Greenpeace’s plans for a peaceful protest against nuclear testing. They were particularly concerned about Polynesians launching outrigger canoes from the Rainbow Warrior. Polynesia is a French territory and the French feared any hint of independence. 

 The first bomb exploded at 11.38pm, lifting those in the mess off their seats. Davy Edwards rushed into the engine room to find a hole the size of a car, water pouring in. Everyone was ordered off the ship but some went back to grab possessions. Fernando Pereira, the ship's photographer, was one of them, perhaps going after his precious cameras. There was a second explosion and, caught in a rush of water, Pereira drowned. 

The crew were in shock. They gave statements to the New Zealand police, who reacted swiftly to the first act of terrorism on their soil. Piecing together statements from members of the public, they were soon questioning a French couple, agents Prieur and Mafart of the French secret service. 

Initially, the French government denied all knowledge but it soon became obvious that they were involved. Soon French Prime Minister Fabius appeared on television to tell a shocked world, "Agents of the DGSE (Secret Service) sank this boat. They acted on orders." The French minister of defense resigned.

Six weeks later in New Zealand, the preliminary hearing in the trial of agents Prieur and Mafart began in Auckland. It was expected to last for weeks but a deal was struck before the agents entered the courtroom. In just 34 minutes, they pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter and wilful damage, attracting sentences of 10 and 7 years to be served concurrently. A UN negotiated settlement meant that the two agents were transferred to Hao atoll, a French military base in French Polynesia to serve their time. They were each released in less than two years.

My thumbs up to the Greenpeace guy standing up there when most people ignored him.

1 comment:

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