|First Seen:||February 2008|
Comprises: Riau-Linng Archipelago, Baggka Island, Billitung Island
Capital: Madripoor (meaning: Madri – mother, pura – city): Malacca Straits, Batam Island.
Background: Originally largely a fishing settlement populated primarily by the Orang Laut people (a group of Malay extraction populating the Riau Islands, the name literally meaning The Sea People in Malay), this island city-state quickly became a significant pirate haven. By the early 13th century Madripoor became the nexus and the political center of the loose confederacy uniting the Orang Laut clans of the Riau-Lingga Archipelagos.
In the mid and late 14th century, the fleets of the Madripoor corsairs were instrumental in helping the Palembang state on Sumatra to remain independent of the expanding Javanese Empire and, eventually, to go on to establish the Sultanate of Malacca. Soon after the Madripoor Confederation lost its cohesion and degenerated into collection of independent pirate tribes.
The Renaissance of Madripoor began in the 16th century as the Spice Islands became the center of explosive confluence of religions and trade, as the Dutch, Spanish and British traders along with Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu missionaries became extremely active in the region. The Confederacy was revived and Madripoor, utilizing the lawlessness of the region (especially after the 1613 destruction of Singapore by the Dutch), steadily grew in importance and population. It also experienced a considerable degree of settlement by the Europeans, although it was never annexed by any major power.
There were several concerted efforts by both the Dutch and the British to clear out the pirates from their perch in the Madripoor harbor, but they never succeeded - with the corsairs being helped both by the naturally advantageous geographical position and by a succession of extremely able leaders. As the European colonizing effort in the region inexorably increased though the 18th and 19th century, so did the strength and boldness of Madripoor pirate raids and, inevitably, the counter strikes. The process culminated in the assault on the island by the British navy in 1857.
However, distracted by the Indian Mutiny ,the Empire was unable to bring its full strength to bear on the Principality – the siege finally culminating in a sea battle, that ended as a very expensive draw and in a treaty between Britain and Madripoor. Whitehall recognized the Principality as a suzerain state in control of Riau-Lingga Archipelago, and acknowledged its claims on Bangka and Billitung islands over whom Madripoor was feuding with the Dutch Trading Company.
In return the Proncipality took on the responsibility of policing the Malacca Straits.
Neither side expected the treaty to amount to anything, but, to the universal surprise, it did. And the Madripoor – slowly and not without setbacks – transformed from a pirate haven into a regional trading and banking nexus, and a steadfast British ally in the latter's rivalry with the Dutch, and later the Japanese.
This growing prosperity was rudely interrupted by the World War 2, when the Principality was occupied and thoroughly plundered by the Empire of the Rising Sun. However, the dynasty did very well for itself in the post-war divisions of the spoils (due to the savage guerrilla war it maintained throughout the occupation period), reaffirming its control over Bangka and Billitung, a poisoned gift that remained a continuous bone of contention between them and the Dutch and, after independence, between the Principality and Indonesia, the part of which Madripoor declined to become. The Principality considers its ownership of the islands to be essential to maintaining its dominant role in Bangka and Karimata straits.
Madripoor officially ended its ties with the Commonwealth following the Second World War, maintaining a neutral role in the Korean war. A major influence during this time was the astonishingly lucrative covert trade with China, which made great steps to re-vitalize the Madripoorian economy. This encouraged a large influx of Chinese immigrants, especially following the Chinese civil war. Unlike Taiwan or Hong Kong, Madripoor was not ethnically or historically Chinese, and lay too far south for reprisals. As a result, Madripoor instituted their first non-deportation policy - essentially creating a haven for people on the run.
Through the next fifty years, Madripoor has swung between control through the throne and control through the Presidency, which rather shortsightedly was put in the hands of the military. With an ostensibly democratic government in place, Madripoor has reaped rewards through support with the G7 and Europe. Important trading partners include Japan, India, Australia and the US. There is even a WTO facility in the capital.
However, it has also been widely criticized for their lack of effectiveness against local pirates, lax customs and trade policies, and their steadfast refusal to extradite criminals. Fortunately, realpolitik has kept Madripoor safe. To the West, it is an invaluable staging ground in the Southwest Pacific, with the added advantage of a relatively stable political structure. It is also extremely valuable for moving goods in an unofficial capacity. For the Asian nations, Madripoor is not large enough to challenge the status quo, and useful for access to technology and resources that would otherwise not be available.
Piracy is an old tradition, one that Madripoor officially condemns but quietly endorses. The Straits are officially off-limits, and the Madripoor navy moves swiftly to destroy any piracy that takes place in those shipping lanes. However, the rest of the ocean is fair game, and it is widely believed that several pirate fleets use Madripoor as both a home base and to liquidate their goods, to the country's substantial gain.
A mosaic of criminal groups have established themselves in Madripoor's fertile ground - some with hundreds of years in the country, and some only recently. Laissez-faire business regulations, combined with cheap labor, are a draw for criminals, and the Yakuza, Hand, Triads, Mafia (American, Italian and Russian), and many others are significant players. Amnesty International has targeted Madripoor as one of the principal stages in the human trafficking trade, but has found little traction.
The main city of Madripoor is densely populated, and the only major city in the island group. There are three cities in the Bagka-Billitung province, but issues with a separatist guerrilla movement have thined the population significantly, increasing the migratonary trend toward the capital and contributing to the latter's instability.
Madripoor is a city of four million, and boasts a transient population of close to 200,000. The city is split into two distinct sections; Kingstown (Hightown) and Victoria Harbor (Lowtown). Hightown is situtated on a plain to the west of the harbor, which overlooks the straits and the city.
The original demarcation was the Rakul Palace, a fortress-like structure which was formally the home of the royal family, and now serves as tourist location. The walls leading out from the fortress to the mountains remain, and have been strengthened and elongated. The city milita operates out of a massive jail/fort at the far end. The walls only extend between High and Lowtown, funneling people through a series of giant gates on foot, or to several road accesses and the main highway. During the occasional riot or instability in Lowtown, the wall serves as the final line of defense for Hightown, even though the city is exposed on the other three sides.
Hightown is the location of the palace, the Parliament, the President's residence, the main offices of the ministries, a WTO building, and a collection of luxury estates clustered around a knot of expensive new high rises and skyscrapers at the center. Hightown is extremely well policed by city militia, and private security forces are common in and around he estates. The Royal Guard patrol the palace as a separate force.
Lowtown is a sprawling warren of homes and factories; warehouses and shops. 85% of Madripoor's population lives in LowTown, which is segmented into neighborhoods/borough, each with a civic council. In theory, the mayor of Victoria Harbor coordinates with aldermen on the various councils to maintain order in the city. The reality is that some sections of the city are either all but lawless, or controlled by outside factors, such as criminal gangs, businesses or the military. Depending on the area, LowTown can be safe and almost orderly, or ghettos of immense density.
The population of LowTown are mostly used as cheap labor, in the extremely robust manufacturing industry. High end factories, for things like electronics, are normally situated in areas controlled by the military. Most factories are for cheap consumer goods. Madripoor is a major center for counterfeit goods. The population of LowTown is predominantly Chinese, Southeast Asian, or Indian, imported for cheap labor.
Madripoor Harbor (formerly Victoria) is one of the great natural harbors in the world, and sports an extensive commercial and industry dock complex. The Docks are maintained by the military, as the Navy anchorage is at the far end. Madripoor's lifeblood, the Docks are active day and night, and count amongst the largest in the world. A substantial community of boat people flood the opposite end of the Docks, closest to LowTown, and boast tiny shops, drug dens and whore houses in their floating community.
Population: 6 731 450 (Madripoor: 4 320 162, Bagka-Billitung Province: 1 451 578, the rest of Riau-Linnga Archipelagos: 959 710
Ethnic groups: Malay 19%, Caucasian 24%, Chinese 27%, Hindu 19%, Southeast Asian (Laotian, Vietnamese, etc) 8%, Other 3%.
Religion: Buddhist 32%, Roman Catholic 28%, Islam 17%, Hindu 16%, Other Christian 9%.
Official Languages: Malay and English.
Government: Constitutional monarchy.
Political System: Oligarchy of the Great Houses.
Madripoor is officially a constitutional monarchy with a democratic structure. In reality, the political system is a struggle for control between different forces.
King Adira is officially the head of state, supported by the Great Houses of the Madripoor nobility. Adira's line stretches back to the original Malay pirate clans, from where the Houses emerged. Unfortunately, while the king does possess significant powers, the office has been slowly eroded over the years to less and less control. Adira's son, Grand Prince Baran, has been working to reverse that trend, cultivating the ancient ruling houses to his side.
Parliament is composed of MPs directly elected by the people. Any citizen of Madripoor who has been a resident of the island for the last two years, or who can prove residency is eligible to vote, however the political system is hopelessly corrupt. Many areas of the city elect men working directly for criminal organizations or business interests. Vote fixing is common, as is intimidation and blackmail in the political process.
14 seperate political parties have elected officials in the Parliament, as well as a handful of independents. The Prime Minister is a direct appointee of the King (officially the MP for the Palace) and is supposed to serve as his voice in the Parliament. Prime Minister Ali Tennekoon, the current incumbent, is an extremely canny politician, who operates in a mercenary fashion to preserve the status quo and his own power. The Parliament serves as a legislative body.
Finally, there is the office of the President. The current President, General Nguyen Ngoc Coy, is a former Vietnamese officer who fled to Madripoor in the 70s, and quickly rose up the ranks. The President is technically democratically elected, but since he is also the Commander in Chief of Madripoor's armed forces; the military has controlled who is elected to the position since the late 60s.
The President has the official powers of the state and the military, including veto power over legislation. An outsider to the Malay nobility, the current struggle for control exists between the President and his military power verses the King and Houses, and their economic power. Currently, much of the Madripoorian army is stationed in the Bagka-Billitung Provience, ostensibly to stamp out rebel activities, but actually a truce between the two factions in order to keep things stable.
Political Parties: 14 (The largest being the Tories, Whigs, Union-Nationalists)
Defense Budget: 3.7% of the GDP
Active Duty Troop Strength: 120 200 (mixed conscription/volunteer system).