Sedition Victory for Green Party and MMP The Governments decision to do away with sedition laws got a big 'thumbs up' from the Green Party.
The Green Party had been calling on the Government to support a Law Commission recommendation that sedition laws be removed from New Zealand law books. Keith Locke says the decision marks a victory for free speech and the right to dissent. It also marks a victory for MMP, as the Government's decision followed a four party press conference (Greens, United Future, ACT and Maori Party), where Keith Locke said that "we want friendly competition between Labour and National to see who would join us in a Parliamentary majority to get rid of the laws". This illustrates the effectivness of small parties to working together and flexing their collective muscle to push the bigger parties along.
Sedition is an archaic "thought crime" that stops people from "exciting disaffection" against the government, something that MPs and other politically engaged citizens do every day. Sedition charges were brought against Maori leaders like Te Whiti in the late 1880s, and against Labour leaders like Peter Fraser and Walter Nash in the early 20th century. The trouble is that after 60 years of the law lying dormant, the Police were starting to use it again, most notably against Aucklander Tim Selwyn for writing a pamphlet calling for "symbolic" actions against the foreshore and seabed law. It is particularly fitting that this step should be being taken by a Labour-led government - given that three of Helen Clark's predecessors as leader of the Labour Party were prosecuted under the same sedition laws that she is now consigning to the dustbin of history.
The Tonga Trials While we are scrapping sedition laws in New Zealand, they are in full use in Tonga, where 5 pro-democracy MPs, are up on phoney charges of sedition following the mayhem in Nukualofa on November 16. Keith Locke was honoured to host the leading pro-democracy MP Akilisi Pohiva in the Auckland Green office on April 27, as he passed through New Zealand on the way back from Canberra. New Zealand should be pushing for renewed dialogue and reconciliation in Tonga, and the removal of the state of emergency - which make it illegal of a Tongan MP to meet more than four people ant any one time!
NZ trades with Arms Company whose US Chief Executive was a lead agent in the Rainbow Warrior bombing Green MP Keith Locke is disturbed that the New Zealand Government has been buying arms off FN Herstal, when Louis-Pierre Dillais, a lead French agent in the Rainbow warrior bombing who bombed the Rainbow Warrior is a senior executive for them.
It is totally unacceptable for New Zealand to purchase guns off a company employing a known terrorist as a senior executive. It is even worse when that man helped let off a bomb in Auckland harbour, killing an innocent man. Such arms purchases would make a mockery of any stand New Zealand takes against terrorism. New Zealand has been subject to only one incidence of international terrorism, the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior. Surely we have enough moral strength not to buy arms off one of the principle terrorists involved.
If F N Herstal is happy to employ such a known terrorist, how can we be sure they are not supplying arms to terrorists and repressive governments around the world? The arms trade is not known for its high standard of ethics in the first place.
The New Zealand government is probably breaking the terrorist financing provisions of the Terrorism Suppression Act. Clearly, Mr Dillais is a terrorist who has yet to be brought to justice and it is a crime, under the Act, to help finance him. The Government would not be as complacent about a firm employing Osama bin Laden. Read about Greenpeace's bid to have the United States deport Louis Pierre Dillais. Read about Greenpeace's bid to have the United States deport Louis Pierre Dillais.
Aid boost could finance climate change projects in Pacific The Green Party welcomed the increase of New Zealand's overseas aid beyond what was projected in last year's Budget. It is now increasing to .30 percent, which puts us on a par with Australia, says Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Keith Locke. The Government is also promising to raise that ratio over the next four years to .35 percent by 2010/11.
This is a victory both for the aid community and for those parties which have been putting pressure on the Government - namely the Greens, United Future and New Zealand First. The Greens have been part of the negotiations for an increase under our post-election agreement with Labour, which prescribed an increase in overseas aid.
However, we still have a big challenge ahead to reach the agreed U.N international aid target of 0.7 percent of GNI by 2015. Half of the new funding will be spent in the Pacific. This is an opportunity for us to put more resources into sustainable energy projects in the region, and to ensure that development aid has a strong climate change dimension. Read more.
Nuclear Veterans should be compensated A Massey study released this week has confirmed what veterans have long suspected - namely that they incurred long term genetic damage as a consequence of their exposure to hydrogen bomb tests in the Pacific in 1957. The Green Party is calling for veterans who participated in Operation Grapple to be compensated for genetic damage, and for their children to be tested to see if genetic damage has been passed on.
Green MP Sue Kedgely argues "It's time for the government to acknowledge the suffering, adverse health effects and long term genetic damage these veterans have incurred as a result of their participation in Operation Grapple. They deserve an official apology from the government, and compensation for the suffering they have endured". Read more.
Military Re-engagement with Indonesia ties New Zealand will resume military ties with Indonesia this month. An Indonesian officer will attend the NZDF Command and Staff College course in Trentham which begins on May 14, 2007. Defence ties were suspended in September 1999 when horrific violence engulfed East Timor. Maire Leadbeater of Indonesia Human Rights Committee argues that the New Zealand Government overlooks:
the military's responsibility for ongoing human rights violations especially in conflict areas such as West Papua. Its territorial structure facilitates the suppression of dissent;
that the generals responsible for the 24 year brutal occupation of East Timor have not been held to account. It is the same for a litany of other historic human rights crimes in Indonesia in which the military is implicated;
that the Indonesian military is still a law unto itself - largely unaccountable to civilian authority and able to call on independent funding including from protection rackets, prostitution and illegal logging;
that the New Zealand public were not consulted or even told about this significant policy change!
Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) recommended that no state should resume military cooperation with Indonesia until there has been genuine 'progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government and strict adherence with international human rights, including respect for the right of self-determination.'
The New Zealand Government should heed this recommendation, instead of restoring defence ties with a military force emboldened by decades of impunity.
Democratic freedoms under threat Read the Press columnist John Minto's article on the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill and find out why "Our democratic freedoms, civil liberties and human rights are under threat once more under the guise of the war on terror". Read John's article.
An indictment of Tony Blair, and the failure of the political process Esteemed former Supreme Court Judge, Ted Thomas, convincingly argues the case for trying Tony Blair for war Crimes. Read the article (pdf 196kb 37pp).
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Get along to Breaking Ranks ... a moving documentary currently screening at the Human Rights Film festival. It examines the current phenomena of US soldiers seeking refuge in Canada as part of their resistance to the war effort in Iraq. With intimate access to four American military deserters, their lawyer and families, this film documents their experiences as they try to exercise their consciences amidst profound emotional, ethical and international consequences.
Celebrate 20 years of Nuclear-Free NZ June 8th is the 20th Anniversary of the passing of the legislation. This was a monumental event and it is important to celebrate this milestone in our history. This is a time to celebrate how we, as a nation, lead the world on this issue and it is a time to thank those who rallied, protested and persisted to get the Bill through. It is also an opportunity to remind the people of New Zealand of the very real threat posed by nuclear weapons today, 20 years after the law was passed.
Look out for events in your area to celebrate 20th Anniversary of Nuclear Free NZ legislation and think about ways you can celebrate in your town or region, for instance a dinner or lunch, or arranging for one or more of those involved in the Nuclear-Free campaign to speak at a public meeting or high school.
Authorised by Jon Field, Level 2, 17 Garrett Street, Wellington.