Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Hassan Juma'a on the Iraq oil law

Hassan Juma'a is president of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions. He visited Britain in July 2007 as part of a campaign against the proposed Iraqi oil law. Below is a the text of his meeting with journalists.

‘At last I managed to get to London after the British embassy in Amman Jordan rejected my first application for a visa nearly two weeks ago.

‘We wanted to participate in the Marxism 2007 conference held recently in London to express the voice of the Iraqi people people facing difficulties at the moment and to link up with the peace loving people in the UK and express our thanks for the solidarity they have given us.

‘The main issue concerning our union and the Iraqi people at the moment is the proposed oil law. A lot of people are questioning why we take a stand against the law.

‘We are proud to state that our union, as a popular organisation in Iraq, was the first body to voice its opinions concerning the proposed oil law in iraq.

‘We held a conference in Basrah, attended by 500 people, including those with expertise in this field, we discussed in detail the proposed law and voice our opinions regarding the many issues contained within it.

‘the role of the union was instrumental in getting people to contribute to the debate around the law, and people were looking to the union to get clarity over the law and its impact on the industry and the country. Oil experts, researchers contributed to the union initiative.

‘One of the indicators of how influential the union was in this proposals was that the first draft of the law, there was an interfering to production sharing agreements, this disappeared from the second draft.

‘Our criticism of the proposal law is not exclusively regarding the production sharing agreement, but other aspects of the law, and our position was made clear. We gave a submission to the Iraqi cabinet, to the Iraqi parliament and to the presidential council.

‘One of our major criticisms regarding the law is the way it was drafted in secret , not many people knew about it, and this contravened the articles of the new Iraqi constitution which states that Iraqi oil and gas wealth is the property of the Iraqi people.

‘As well as being critical of the production sharing agreement, we are critical of the process, how it was written, and kept behind closed doors and how they kept the Iraqi people in the dark about important details of this proposed law.

‘We demanded that Iraqi National Oil Company be reconstituted and made effective.

‘There is a reference in the constitution that the National Oil Company has a role in the production of oil, but it does not go far enough in stressing that the company should have sole ownership over the oil fields and the oil industry.

‘Part of this proposal is that they envisage a reconstitution of the national oil company, is that they have the right to new oil fields that at the moment they want to hand over to multinationals.

‘The greatest problem are the references to the four appendixes to the oil law and this specify which oil fields are part of the national oil company.

‘Appendix one and two state that production in existing oil fields remain within the control of the national company, but appendix 3 and 4 state that all newly discovered oil fields are handed over—or explored— to foreign companies.

‘And they are giant oil fields that will be handed over to multinationals, to allow them to explore these fields. One example, there is a huge field in Wasat Province called the Ahdat field, the reserve in this oil filed alone is two million barrels. This is a newly discovered oil field.

“This is put in the category of the multinational companies.”

“The truth is that all the major oil fields in Iraq have already been discovered, the oil law gives these multinational companies the concessions and exploitation of these fields.

“If the opportunity os given to the Iraqi National oil Company to explore and develop these fields we do not need the help of multinationals companies.

“Iraq today produces up 2,100,000 barrels of oil a day, the revenue from that is $43 billion in revenue. Therefore Iraq potentially has a huge amount of revenue to develop future operations and a programme of reconstruction.

“We are not against the participation of foreign companies in the reconstruction of the industry. But this has to be within the so called service contract framework where the ownership and production is in the hands of the Iraqi people.

“There it is a false assumption that we are against the participation of foreign companies in the participation of the industry.

“We support participation in the redevelopment of the Iraqi industry but it has to be on our conditions and in the service of the Iraqi nation.

“This is an important issue for us because oil revenue accounts for 85-90 percent of our national income.

“The oil workers in Iraq play a pivotal role in the production of oil. Since the occupation started, Iraqi workers, engineers and experts have under very difficult conditions maintained production.

“Whoever is watching Iraq at the moment will conclude that we are lagging behind in technology—that we are a century behind. But we have been deprived of technology for a long time. But the oil workers work and live under very difficult conditions at the moment.

“Whatever you see on the TV about Iraq, the misery of its people, I tell you that the conditions on the ground are much worse. Hundreds of people are being killed everyday.

“We hold the United States directly responsible for this situation, and we warned from the beginning that the occupation will be a disaster. The must have the lion’s share of responsibility for the deteriorating security situation.

“The occupation only brought us destruction and misery. Despite what is being said that they brought democracy to Iraq. Believe me when I tell you that democracy in Iraq is not like the democracy that you have in the west.

“Democracy in Iraq today is democracy of suppression and repression and the silencing of all voices that are raised for the national interest.

“We say very clearly that is is unwise and unwelcome to introduce laws that will bind future generations. Iraq is under occupation and no such law that affects the future should be introduced at the moment.

“Such a law should be passed when we have full sovereignty, when the wishes of the people are given uppermost priority.

“If this law is carried now it will affect future generations, and will impact the reconstruction program. Iraq needs every penny to rebuild shattered lives and a shattered economy.

“I express on many occasions, in meeting and interviews that even if in the future the United States ends its military occupation over our country its economic occupation will continue for many years to come."

Questions from journalists:
Q: Your union was recently involved in a series of strikes. Can you update us on the dipute?

“Many outstanding issues remain between us and the government over working conditions, and our opposition to the oil law. There are negotiations are taking place at the moment. But during the strike an arrest warrant was issued against the union leaders in the south, including myself.

“We are planning a big demonstration in Basrah outside the municipality on Monday 16 July. It is one of the many actions we are planning.

“We are still negotiating over 17 demands, including over health care, wages etc. Until now we have not received sufficient answers over these demands."

Q: What are the conditions in the south, and do you have much confidence in a British withdrawal?
“We do not distinguish between the British and US conduct in Iraqi. Occupation is occupation, irrespective who is taking part in it.

“They use the same methods and tactics. They repress people and arrest people.

“When the foreign troops withdraw from Iraq we might face a period of chaos, but we have enough good leaders in our country to solve our own problems.

“Despite the total collapse of law and order, the grave situation facing the economy and security matters. If this calamity faced any other peoples of the world they would face similar problems. But despite this life goes in Basrah and in Iraq.

“The way we see it is that there is no crisis in Iraqi society. the problem is the divisions among the political elites, and the problems between the occupation and the elates.

“Basrah differs from other provinces in terms of security situation. But despite the relative calm in Basra in comparison to other provinces, we no see no programme of reconstruction. A lot of people predicted that because of relative calm in Basrah there would be more reconstruction and that this would become an example for the other provinces. But this is not the case.

Q: What is the role of US, Britain and multinationals in drawing up oil law?

“The US government is behind this law. We think the US and British are exerting maximum pressure on the Iraqi government to pass such a law. Because George Bush failed in the military aspect of the occupation. But if he can force this law through then he could claim some kind of victory and justify the invasion.

Q: What is happening to the law in the parliament?

“I am very happy that the highest authority in Iraq, the Iraqi Consultative Council have discussed and put some points regarding this law. The ICC raised 13 points to the law and forwarded it to cabinet and parliament. But there are important blocs within the parliament that oppose the oil law.

“We predict a long discussion regarding this debate.

“Even though within the political process there are people who have views regarding this law.

“There is also disagreement from among the Kurds regarding this agreement. The Kurdish parties oppose some elements to the appendix.

Q: Is there any truth in rumours that Muqtada al-Sadr and Sunnis-based resistance are forming a national movement?

“Sadr’s opposition is well known. We would welcome any alliance which aims to end the occupation. On condition that they must serve the national interest and not serve a narrow sectarian agenda. The sectarian and ethnic conflict started after the occupation began, we did not have this conflict before.

Q: What proof do you have that the Iraqi prime minister is being pressured by US, to pass this law?

“One of the indicators is that the way the law was proposed, and the whole process, how it was developed and came into being and was presented is a strong indicators.

“Statements coming out of the US administration itself regarding the law.

“It’s not logical for the US to leave Iraq empty handed, they want to leave Iraq with their hands full of Iraqi oil.”

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