With the economic crisis, the question of “ecology” has become a kind of pawn that capitalists use in their dire conflicts. In particular, they find “ecology” useful to stop a rival firm’s planned project. They come right out and finance NGOs that are supposedly “ecological” so that they oppose the rival project that they want to halt, and thus enhance their business interests and increase their profits. Many NGOs seem to be happy to lend themselves to this insalubrious game.
In Mauritius, this has been done quite openly. There is even proof. In a candid moment in a press interview, Jean-Pierre Hardy, in charge of investment companies, and incidentally a former Ramgoolam advisor, said in the context of the La Chaumiere Gamma-Covanta project to make energy from burning rubbish, that a section of the capitalist class (those in nearby sugar estates with Integrated Resort Scheme plans in the pipeline) were opposed to this project that another section (the Ah-Tecks) were launching:
“L’Etat propose que le budget de Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) des compagnies qui font des profits passé de 1% à 2%. Cet argent n’est-il pas destiné à financer des ONG qui luttent pour des causes qu’ils considèrent valables? Pourquoi tirer à boulets rouges sur des ONG qui montrent une certaine efficacité à travailler? Et si l’argent vient du secteur privé, est-ce un péché?” (...) A la question de ‘kisannla ki pe finans zot?’, je reponds, ‘And so what?’”(L’Express 2 June, 2009).
He said this in the context of the opposition that was demonstrating in the streets and handing out leaflets and pasting up posters against the La Chaumiere Gamma-Covanta incinerator project. This opposition was funded by sugar estates and IRS and hotel groups, so as to help bar a project that was against their business interests.
Estates and Hotels v/s CT Power
We saw the same thing happen against the coal power station project of the CT Power group at Pointe aux Caves, Albion. Medine Sugar Estate opposed this, but has, itself signed an IPP contract with the CEB to produce electricity, but has also agreed to give government land for the construction of a power station run on coal on a permanent basis! Daniel Giraud, Medine director in May 2012 publicly said: ‘“Médine est disposée à offrir des terres que le gouvernement veut obtenir et qui se trouvent tout près de l’usine sucrière”, du fait que le pays aura besoin de ressources énergétiques assez rapidement. “Je tiens à préciser que ce n’est pas Médine qui est derrière le projet de cette centrale thermique à base de charbon. Mais sans elle, nous serons à court d’électricité. Je sais que le gouvernement veut construire trois centrales de 100 mégawatts dans le temps. Si le charbon est choisi, c’est que chaque pays vit selon ses moyens”, ajoute Dany Giraud.’ (Le Defi media 6 Me, 2012).
It is also true that the main thrust of the “citizens” opposition to the CT Power project was rather abject in not putting into question all the IPP contracts being signed with sugar estates to run permanently on coal. If they truly object on ecological grounds to coal, they should have done so for all cases.
Ramgoolam was supporting the capitalists behind the CT Power project, while the MMM was against them because they are awkward for the future projects of the Medine capitalists. And at last the Jugnauth-Duval-Collendavelloo government has broken off the contract with CT Power. But only on a technical point.
All this to point out the importance of being clear in our ecological viewpoints, and principled in our stands and our sources of funds. This kind of clarity will prevent NGOs from being brazenly used by those with much more power than they have. But, NGOs have the additional problem that “single-issue” organizations are sitting ducks for being used. (See our REVI LALIT article on how Greenpeace was used by the British State in its plot to set up a Marine Protected Area in Chagos. Here too, there was proof. The Wikileaks cables showed the US Ambassador to the UK writing home about how the whole thing was a hoax to prevent the return of Chagossians.)