Oman: arms and loitering

Posted on | maart 4, 2011 | No Comments

Jan Meyer

“People here never ever demonstrated. Some of the demonstrators are ordinary rioters. The rest are young people who demand work. They want a job immediately and that is of course impossible.”

These are the words on the situation in Oman by Jan Meyer. Meijer is works for the port of Rotterdam as CEO in Oman. The port of Rotterdam has a 6.5 billion investment in Oman. That’s why. He continues in the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad of March 1st by stating:

“The demonstrations run increasingly out of control because protesters are attacking the police. The police here is normally very peaceful. Too peaceful in my eyes. But when the agents are trapped, they shoot with rubber bullets and use tear gas. A protester has died and that is why the protesters start looting shops and become even angrier.”

You do not believe your eyes when you read this. Where has the man been during the last month? It is clear: Trade is trade, and the eyes are focused on the shimmering horizon and the mind is set on cash. The engine of the Dutch economy – the transport sector – should run and expand also in countries where the police is part of a corrupt regime. The investments shouldn’t be endangered by a bunch of rioting street kids. When action is required Meijer rolls up his sleeves, especially when it is lucrative, and speaks strong language.

Amnesty International is also looking with a critical eye to Oman, but from a different angle:

“Members of two tribes continued to be denied equal access to economic and social rights. New restrictions on freedom of expression were introduced and several journalists and writers were harassed by the authorities. Women were subject to discrimination in law and practice,” as the organization summarizes the situation.”

The facts show that I should not be naive. Oman is a serious customer on the Dutch market for arms. But the Netherlands also serves as a transit port for military products. Last week I came across a load of British riot control tear gas canisters. They passed the Dutch airport Schiphol in 2007 on their way to the sultanate. When it comes to arms exports Amsterdam and Rotterdam have an equal track record: Oman received a few million small caliber cartridges shipped via the harbour of Rotterdam.

The recent news about the British export of tear gas to Bahrain led to commotion in the UK. French tear gas grenades and launchers passed Schiphol several times on the way to Bahrain. It did not make a rimple. The Dutch don’t fuss about it. The government of the Netherlands takes the position that arms exports which has been approved by allies will not be controlled again when passing through the Dutch air and sea ports. Again, looking away means: cash.

The sultan came to power through a coup. But that is more than forty years ago. The Omani and Dutch are very similar people, according to Meyer. Both are friendly nations with a commercial spirit. Will Sultan Qaboos bin Said also drive around in a golden coach pulled by horses? A coach he got out of gratitude by his own people, like the Dutch queen? Next week they meet each other. So all rioters: go home. If you do not a load of anti-riot gear can be shipped through the airport of Amsterdam or port of Rotterdam to Oman to learn you a Dutch lesson.

AUTHOR: Martin Broek
E-MAIL: m.broek [at]


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