A global coalition of civil society groups intends to strip Singapore Technologies Engineering (STE) of over US$1 billion because of its manufacture of cluster weapons. The grouping claims that divestment will be a legal obligation for governments which ratify the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, a new treaty which comes into legal force in August of this year. Last month a group of Dutch and Belgian NGOs released a report naming the international finance institutions which allow the construction of cluster weapons.
Cluster weapons, like landmines, litter post-war environments in which they have been used. They leave behind large numbers of unexploded, but potentially lethal, sub-munitions which act like de facto landmines. The Cluster Munition Coalition, which boasts some 350 member organizations in 90 countries, has launched an international campaign to divest financial involvement in cluster weapons manufacture.
The Coalition is targeting STE because it is a manufacturer of cluster weapons. About US$1.4 billion are invested in STE by major financial firms from 7 countries, including the US, UK and Japan. The Coalition states that these are only the investments they can find to date, and that they will be adding more as investment information is discovered. The campaign uses the information on investors who have ownership or management of shares in STE, ownership or management of bonds in STE or have underwritten bond issues of STE.
Singapore has stated that it will remain outside the new international treaty banning the weapon, just as it remains outside the 1997 international convention banning anti-personnel landmines. Both landmines and cluster weapons are produced by the government-linked Singapore Technologies group. The landmines are based on a design Singapore pirated from Italy and which are now illegal to produce there. Singapore has stated that it will not export either weapon, but no binding legislation to that effect exists within the country.
27 major financial groups have been targeted for the divestment campaign by the Coalition, including: Aberdeen Asset Management (UK); Allianz (Germany); Capital Group; Commonwealth Bank of Australia; Credit Suisse; BlackRock (United States); Daiwa Asset Management (Japan); Deutsche Bank; Fidelity Group; Franklin Templeton; Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co.; Henderson Global Investors (UK); Invesco; Kuntien Eläkevakuutus (Finland); Martin Currie Investment Management; Matthews International Capital Management; Mondrian Investment Partners (UK); Newton Investment Management; Schroder Investment Management (UK); State Street; UBS; Universal Investment (Germany); Vanguard Group; Veritas Asset Management; Vontobel Group (Switzerland) ; Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation which jointly hold or manage about 1.4 billion in STE, or about a quarter of its shares.
STE has already been banned for investment by the following funds, banks and insurance companies: The New Zealand Superannuation Fund (New Zealand), ABP (the Netherlands); Ethias (Belgium); KLP (Norway); PGGM (the Netherlands); PNO Media (the Netherlands); Danske Bank (Denmark); KBC (Belgium); Nordea (Sweden). More will soon be joining this list.
Who will be left holding the bag? The Singapore Ministry of Finance, which owns Temasek Holdings. Temasek owns or manages just over 50 per cent of STE. Temasek has very high connections. Its Chief Executive Officer is Ho Ching, wife of current Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. She was formerly the President and Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Technologies at the time it acquired Chartered Industries of Singapore, now Singapore Technology Kinetics, the division of STE which produces both landmines and cluster weapons.
The author, Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, is an independent scholar, author and academic residing in Bangkok, Thailand
Read the report entitled Worldwide investments in cluster munitions – a shared responsibility mentioned in the article
Headline image courtesy of Weri Channel