INTERVIEW WITH MR. CHRISTIAN REMI RICHARD MADAGASCAR'S MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
"As for us, when people speak of the State of Israel, we see it as Palestine occupied by the Israelis."
Mr. Christian Remi Richard, Malagasy Minister of Foreign Affairs, paid an official visit to Lebanon from 3 to 8 June at the invitation of the PLO. He headed an important Malagasy delegation.
"Palestine" magazine met Mr. Christian Remi Richard, who outlined the Democratic Republic of Madagascar's views on Malagasy-Palestinian relations, the separate Egyptian-Israeli treaty, the situation in southern Africa and the problem of demilitarisation of the Indian Ocean.
Q: Sir, you have been in Lebanon for several days at the head of an important Malagasy government delegation. Could you describe the aims of your visit?
A: We have been in Beirut, or more precisely in Lebanon, for exactly five days, at the invitation of our militant brothers and comrades of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. This is partly in response to the visit to Madagascar by a PLO delegation, which came on a friendly and working visit to us in the course of which they suggested we pay a similar visit to them.
In five days we have been able to observe on the spot how our Palestinian brothers are fighting. The purpose of our visit is simply to convey to them our support and encouragement for the continuation of this struggle which we Malagasys have always supported in all international forums. Madagascar's position on this subject is very well known. We have always demanded that the Palestinian people should be able to exercise their right of self-determination, a totally legitimate right, and should be able to establish an independent sovereign state. It is in this sense that we very strongly condemned the unilateral "peace" treaty signed by Sadat and Begin with regard to the Middle East problems. We think, in fact, that Sadat has not been authorised by our Palestinian brothers, let alone our Arab brothers, to speak in their name. To us, this unilateral signature represents complicity with imperialism with a view to threatening peace in this part of the world still further. So we have come here to convey clearly this position, which we have always supported throughout the world, to our brother and comrade Yasser Arafat. We have come to work and discuss with our brothers, the combatants and militants of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. They took us to see front-line military positions some of which since then, according to the local press, were bombed again by the Israeli air force. They let us see this daily life they lead, this constant threat.
We have also taken the opportunity to discuss a certain amount of bilateral issues between Palestinians and Malagasys, such as how to develop relations of economic, scientific, technical and cultural co-operation with a view to translating our common aims and ideals into more concrete actions. It is to this end that the PLO has decided to establish a permanent diplomatic mission in Tananarive, not only to develop political- affairs, but also to further our bilateral co-operation.
VISIT TO SOUTH LEBANON
In Lebanon generally, we've seen the city of Beirut, but we've also visited South Lebanon. In Beirut, we went to certain specialised PLO institutions. In particular, we saw the social work of these institutions such as, for example, the Palestinian Red Crescent, which we visited. With our own eyes we saw the children who were victims of the war, whether because their parents were killed during the bombardments or because they themselves were wounded, a very pitiful scene which showed the violence of Israeli Zionism. In South Lebanon we visited Sidon and we were in Nabatiyeh and Tyre. Particularly in Tyre, we saw, in a very limited area of scarcely one square kilometre, a camp of Palestinian refugees which had been bombarded recently. We learned that there were 12 people killed and 27 wounded in the bombardment. That was one aspect of what we witnessed here. But, in contrast to this, we learned in South Lebanon of the organisation of a unified military command between the Palestinians on the one hand and the progressive Lebanese, who belong to the Lebanese National Movement, on the other. We regard all this as proof of the reality of the daily Palestinian struggle against Israeli Zionism. In Beirut, we were also able to evaluate another aspect of this struggle, particularly the SAMED venture, an activity of a social character for the benefit of the children or families of those killed in action, as well as what we said about the Palestinian Red Crescent. This is also a positive aspect of this struggle against Zionism.
Q: The PLO office in Tananarive will be set up in the same premises as the former Israeli Embassy. First, what led the Malagasy government to close this embassy, and then what inspired your government to put these premises at the PLO's disposal, which is a very significant gesture?
A: First, one must understand the Malagasy Socialist Revolution, which is a true eradication of the neo-colonial system which followed independence in 1960. This eradication is also expressed by the unconditional closure of the former Israeli Embassy.
Why do we hand these premises over to our Palestinian comrades? In a way you gave the answer by saying it was a very significant gesture. As for us, when people speak of the State of Israel, we see it as Palestine occupied by the Israelis. If we gave this embassy to Israel before, we feel now that it belongs to those who truly represent the Palestinian people.
Q: Could you please tell us about recent developments in southern Africa, particularly with regard to Zimbabwe and Namibia?
A: The non-aligned movement held an extraordinary meeting of its coordination Bureau in Maputo in January specifically to study the problems of southern Africa in general. The situation prevailing there is being maintained by the Western powers and is far from conforming to the various relevant resolutions adopted by the United Nations. We can only condemn these acts of procrastination with regard to the settlement of the problems of both Namibia and Zimbabwe. We also condemn the situation of apartheid and racism. It is in this respect that the next summit of non-aligned states and the forthcoming OAU summit will be of considerable political significance, since the solution of the problems of southern Africa can no longer be delayed, just as one cannot wait any longer for the solution of the Palestinian problem.
Q: Do you see a link between the political developments in southern Africa and those in the Middle East?
A: What I can tell you in overall terms is that it's a question of action by international imperialism. As long as one tries to solve such-and-such a problem in a given region partially, one is trying to aggravate it further. These are definitely acts to divert world attention from the problems which exist at present in the world. The proof - and here again I quote the Palestinian people's case - is that criminal savage acts committed every day against the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples still remain unpunished. World opinion has turned its back on this completely, despite the adoption of clear and relevant decisions in all international forums, particularly the UN. These acts of genocide are going on every day.
Q: Would you like to add anything?
A: I would like, before concluding, to stress how vital it is for relations between peoples fighting against imperialism and colonialism to be strengthened further, so that they form a united front against domination and exploitation in all their forms. I think the relations between the Malagasys and their Palestinian brothers could in the very near future give an example in this respect.
Palestine - PLO information bulletin has been archived online as a project of New Jersey Solidarity - Activists for the Liberation of Palestine.
Originally published by The Palestine Liberation Organisation Unified Information as a bi-monthly information bulletin with copy permission granted via the notice "Partial or total reproduction is freely permitted by 'Palestine Bulletin'"
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