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The Rainbow Warrior was sunk 32 years ago today

Written By: - Date published: 8:15 am, July 10th, 2017 - 19 comments
Categories: Conservation, crime, democracy under attack, Environment, Europe, International, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , ,

Thirty two years ago today New Zealand suffered the most egregious attack on its sovereignty that it has ever suffered. A group of foreign agents snuck into the country and attached two bombs to a ship berthed at Auckland.

The first was meant to be a warning to those on board to leave. The second blew a huge hole in the side of the ship causing it to sink.

Regrettably one person on board, Fernando Pereria, rushed to his cabin to retrieve his valuable camera equipment. He drowned after the second blast occurred.

The organisation responsible was not Isis or Iraq or even the Soviet Union. It was the state of France, upset at the temerity of Greenpeace for insisting that France should not test Nuclear weapons in the South Pacific and for taking peaceful action against it in pursuit of this goal.

In a fit of born to rule pique France thought that it was justified in committing a terrorist attack on New Zealand. It determined that it was warranted in blowing up a boat belonging to a pacifist organisation in Auckland harbour against many, many norms of International law.

It’s arrogance was matched only by its ineptness. Observant kiwis provided small but important pieces of information to the police which resulted in the arrest of French agents Alain Marfart and Dominique Prieur on New Zealand soil.  Four other agents were identified but managed to escape capture.

Prieur and Marfart were subsequently tried for murder and managed  to escape with a conviction for manslaughter instead and they were sentenced to ten years jail.

The Secretary General of the United Nations determined that France should apologise, pay $7 million in compensation and that the agents should serve their time on Hao Atoll. Part way through their term on Hao Prieur and Marfart were secreted back to France.

An arbitration between the countries then occurred.  It was ruled that France had acted in breach of the Secretary General’s ruling.

Throughout this event France acted reprehensibly, committing an act of war on New Zealand then refusing to abide by a binding obligation. And Greenpeace lost a dedicated passionate activist and a valuable iconic ship.

One of the agents who escaped, Christine Cabon, escaped without penalty.  She was located recently by Stuff reporters Cecile Meier and Kelly Dennett who have written this fascinating backgrounder on her in Stuff.  She declined to apologise.

To mark today I am going to give a donation to Greenpeace. If you wish to do the same the link is here.

19 comments on “The Rainbow Warrior was sunk 32 years ago today ”

  1. james 1

    I watched a documentary on this years later and they had an interview with Lange and got him to comment to the daughter? of Fernando Pereria.

    They were asking on why they made it so easy for them to leave NZ (or something like that) after killing her dad (it was a real emotionally charged question).

    The substance of the answer was that “he had to” for “the best for the country” – but you could really tell that he had agonised over the decision and that it still haunted him.

    It was very interesting and Lange was great to watch.

    It was a horrible thing that they did to NZ – and my family still buy very little in terms of French products because of it.

    • mickysavage 1.1

      Thanks James

      I found this video from a couple of years ago. No sign of Fernando’s daughter but Lange is interviewed and you can sense his frustration with what happened.


    • Mrs Brillo 1.2

      That’s interesting, James – thought ours might be the only New Zealand household still doing a silent boycott of French products, pointless though it might seem to some. Maybe there’s still a few of us out there with long memories and the will to act on them.
      Any others here?

  2. A fund was set up with the $x millions the French paid the NZ Government as a result of the bombing from which I was able to draw several thousand dollars toward the establishment of a wetland in Riverton.

  3. Ad 3

    It is really hard to see how this country would have pushed through the 1987 nuclear-free legislation were it not for the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. That and Sir Geoffrey Palmer. So in that way Fernando Pereira is a martyr to a successful cause.

    But to met the particularly sad this about the attack was that it brought to a close the grand activist era that had expanded since the end of the Vietnam War. The era 1974-1985 was the last great renewal the left has had.

    After all, in one big sense the attack did what it set out to do: terrorise the left. That year was the high point for membership numbers of many left organisations which declined after that, and even protest activity peaked at that point.

    • mickysavage 3.1

      Interesting point. Related or coincidental? For NZ Rogernomics played its part.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        Yep, Labour’s advancement of crony capitalism at that time is what killed the Left in NZ.

        • Ad

          On the contrary.
          The Lange government gave the left most of what it wanted.

          Unfortunately it wasn’t what they wanted.

          It just took a while to figure that.

          • Draco T Bastard

            The Left never asked for neo-liberalism. I still recall the horror of the left as Labour started trashing social democracy. It didn’t take long at all. In 1987 people still voted Labour but their vote share was going down. People didn’t like what Labour were doing but they didn’t want National at all. National got in in 1990 because they promised to undo what Labour had done economically – which they promptly reneged on.

            • Ad

              True as far as it goes.
              Jim Anderton and many others fought very hard against it in the congresses, and tens of thousands rebelled against it in protests. Many resigned from Labour at that point.

              But the 1984 government is more complex than that.

              Labour’s rise in 1984 owed much to its promise of education reform, anti-racist campaigns, reform over womens’ rights, Treaty of Waitangi rights, and ecological and conservation reform. Those were efforts driven from the liberative movements that emerged from the late 1970s.

    • Anne 3.2

      … the attack did what it set out to do: terrorise the left.

      Agreed. And during the aftermath innocent individuals were terrorised who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      You might be interested to know mickysavage that the lawyer hired by the French govt. to represent Prieur and Marfart was ‘Gerard Curry’ who had been an active member of the Mt. Albert Labour Party in the late 1970s and early 1980s – at least active in the sense he regularly attended the monthly meetings. He also appeared to have links to ‘Lloyd Brown QC’ who was French Consul in Auckland at the time.

      Curry disappeared from Labour’s ranks sometime prior to the bombing raid.

      • mickysavage 3.2.1

        Interesting. From memory he was a Russell McVeagh partner?

        • Anne

          Yes. In fact he rose to chairman of the Russell McVeagh board. His clients included Robin Congreve (Winebox fame) and various other rich pricks such as Alan Gibbs and his assorted mates.

          In the years that followed the bombing I had to wonder….

  4. greywarshark 4

    Thanks [MS] this date is a good time to look again at the Rainbow Warrior bombed in our harbour by a bellicose large foreign power. We need to remind ourselves that some paranoia is useful for any citizen when considering the PTB which now is added to by supra-rich types that own or control an overwhelming portion of our world and us.

    And it happened once, who might follow in sabots of the French? Tom Lehrer wondered in song about bombs Who’s Next.

    Previous missions against Greenpeace had involved small acts of sabotage, including poisoning food to disrupt Greenpeace’s itinerary…

    She was ‘Frederique Bonlieu’, a geomorphologist who was passionate about the environment and willing to volunteer on international missions.
    Cabon inserted herself into Greenpeace’s anti-nuclear testing projects, making friends with its directors and volunteers, sleeping on their couches, and crucially for the French, acquiring intimate details of its workings….

    Cabon was chosen for the mission because she was a young woman, Arboit believes, different from what people typically thought of as a military type.
    Bonlieu’s image fitted with the global women’s liberation movement. For clandestine missions, the secret service also chose agents who weren’t far from the role they would play – she might even have a genuine interest in the environment, Arboit says….

    “My job was what it was,” she says. “I entered the army to prevent international and national conflict because my family, originally from Alsace, suffered from the war….

    And she’s soon back on message: the army has an important role to play and wars around the world are still taking lives, she says.
    “I have many comrades who are getting killed in Mali by ISIS, in Iraq and in several places around the world.”

    My thoughts on this are that the ripples from past wars particularly WW2 are still felt. It resulted in the growth of strange mutated behaviours, and unimagined cruelty and brutalisation and suffering in every country where there was conflict. The world has never really examined this aspect of our nature that needs to be understood so that it can’t remain hidden and rise when there is a tipping point.

    The image of Cabon shows her as a sweet faced young girl and apparently she was very interested in the environment and hated killing animals. But we have to watch for purist and plastic idealogues of all ages and of either gender who can be so focussed on a goal or idea that the commitment to living rules of respect for other humans or our earth, and limiting destructive behaviour is put aside, and negative results just regarded in cold-blooded, egoistic, mechanistic economic ideology.

  5. greywarshark 5

    [Fixed for ya – MS]

  6. The Real Matthew 6

    Given the refereeing in the 2nd and 3rd Lions vs All Blacks games it would seem to me the French are yet to stop terrorising New Zealand 32 years on.

    • In Vino 6.1

      No – I agree with Jonathan Kaplan. The penalty should have been against Kieran Reed’s blatantly illegal charge, with hand held up to pretend he was chasing the ball , but he never even looked for the ball at the last moment, never got near touching it or playing it, and succeeded in smashing Andrews who was legitimately catching the ball, causing the initial knock-on, totally illegally. The French referee was wrong only because he did not penalise Reed. Kaplan is right.
      And you need to move on from what the French themselves felt horribly guilty about. They expect corruption from their politicians – a lesson you appear yet to learn.

    • JC 6.2

      Get a Life… and More importantly comment on the Post, (and it’s Significance in NZ and the Pacific! Or perhaps sign up to a sports Blog!

      • In Vino 6.2.1

        Read the last sentence again. And read The Real Mathew’s post again.

        I visited friends in France at the end of 1986. The French were universally apologetic and horrified at what their secret service with some politicians had done. But politicians in France are always surrounded in scandal, and this was seen as another catastrophic blunder. French people vary as much as we do, but feel they have as individuals very little control over the system that runs their country once a govt. has been elected. And even though we are a smaller country, there are times when we seem to have very little control over what our govt. does…
        I was always treated with kid gloves… Except for one right-wing guy who pointed out that Lange was suing for an excessive amount of compensation. I replied that he was a lawyer, and lawyers always claim more than they hope to get.
        And don’t forget that it was the French newspaper ‘Le Monde’ with investigative reporting to equal Watergate that finally forced the French Govt. to admit its guilt. Those sods were not going to admit guilt just because of some minor evidence we had down here. They were intending to bluff it out.
        To go on hating the French for ever is a sign of immaturity. But maybe insecure people desperately need somebody bad to look down on.
        Are some of us over-nursing a grudge?

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