Geneva (Jun. 17)
Supplementary information was provided with regard to the maintenance of the status quo at the Holy Places, and the view was expressed that the report of the Wailing Wall Commission would meet the situation, says the communique issued to-day of the proceedings of the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, at which the examination of the British administration of Palestine during the past year was continued.
Attention was given to the existing laws relating to the acquisition of Palestine citizenship, the communique proceeds. The extent of agricultural loans and their conditions in Palestine for 1930 were discussed. Information was given in regard to the establishment of a general Agricultural Council composed of the Arab, Jewish and German farming communities, for the purposes of formulating a comprehensive programme of agricultural research and education. Further information was asked of the Mandatory Power with regard to the traffic in arms. Note was taken of the International Conventions to which Palestine has become a party and also the relations between Transjordan and Palestine. Finally, the public finances of these territories were examined.
The conditions under which the concession was awarded to the Iraq Petroleum Company for the conveyance of mineral oils through Palestine was examined with reference to the provisions of the Mandate. The J.T.A. representative understands that the Commission criticised the conditions of the Iraq Oil Pipe Line Concession for regulating the transit of the oil of the Iraq Petroleum Company through Palestine to the port of Haifa, on the ground that they give the Iraq Petroleum Company too extensive privileges inconsistent with the terms of the Palestine Mandate.
The Commission concluded at this session the questioning of the British accredited representatives, and it will formulate its conclusions at the close of the session which will probably be next week.
THE IRAQ OIL PIPE LINE CONCESSION
The convention regulating the transit of the mineral oils of the Iraq Petroleum Company through Palestine territory was signed on January 5th. by the High Commissioner, Sir John Chancellor, and Mr. J. Skliros, on behalf of the Company, and was published in the Palestine “Official Gazette” on February 2nd. and ratified by the Iraq Parliament on May 18th. In consideration of the benefits which the country will derive, the convention said, the Government desires to facilitate the undertaking, and accordingly the terms of the convention provide for special facilities for loading and unloading ships
The convention with the Iraq Petroleum Company shows how anxious the British authorities are to be as accommodating as possible in order to induce the Company to carry the Pipe Line over Palestine territory and have it terminate in the Haifa Bay area, was an objection raised in some quarters in Palestine at the time the Convention was published. No facility has been withheld and no privilege denied the Company, it was said, in the effort to rival the conditions offered by the French authorities to induce the Company to bring the pipe line to Syria. In Palestine labour circles uneasiness has been expressed over the fact that the provision with regard to the employment of Palestine labour is not qualified by any demand for the protection of the labourer, such as a fair wage clause or insurance. If this were a convention which required the ratification of the British Parliament, it is argued, the rights of the worker would not have been so disregarded. But as this agreement was officially negotiated as a simple “administrative measure”, despite its far-reaching consequences, the Colonial Office, it is complained, has seen fit to do as it pleased, asking no security for the worker and giving the Company every possible advantage over the employee.
The Mandates Commission discussed the position in regard to the Iraq oil fields, during its session last November, in connection with a petition from the British Oil Development Company. The Mandates Commission finally decided to request the Council of the League to enquire of the Mandatory Power whether there exists a judicial authority competent to pass upon the matter which forms the subject of the British Oil Development Company’s Petition. The Rapporteur on the question, M. Rappard, pointed out in the course of the discussion that it is a matter of public knowledge that the Mandatory Power has interests in the Iraq Petroleum Company, and in consequence, as its accredited representative had said, it had the strongest reasons for not exposing itself even to a shadow of suspicion. Should the reply of the Mandatory Power to the question be in the negative, the resolution of the Mandates Commission moved by M. Rappard and adopted by the Mandates Commission said, the Commission reserves its right to examine the petition, basing its action on the duty incumbent upon it to see that the policy pursued in the territories under Mandate is in conformity with the interests of the inhabitants. If on the other hand it appears that the petitioners can have recourse to a court, the Commission desires to reserve its views until the decision of that court has been made known to it. Six members of the Commission voted for the proposal, two abstained and two voted against the proposal.
According to a communique issued by the French Foreign Office last week, work is to be begun at once on the pipe line, which will take over two years to complete. Three different groups of labourers are to prepare the ground over the respective sections; the actual laying of the pipe will only begin after the summer. According to the agreement, the pipe will bifurcate at the Iraq frontier, one branch going through French Syria to Tripoli and the other through Palestine to Haifa.