In Sri Lanka in November, Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Minister Murray McCully found themselves estranged from other Commonwealth leaders over ongoing human rights abuses, war crimes committed by Sri Lanka authorities against the Tamil population.
In my post Horror Regimes, Identity Crises and Self-Serving Sycophancy I referenced Fairfax media’s Andrea Vance who summed the situation up simply with this paragraph:
“Foreign minister Murray McCully returned from the Tamil-led north of Sri Lanka last night and indicated he believes New Zealand should not support an independent investigation into war crimes.”
I followed with three questions:
Is this what New Zealand has become? Is this all that’s left of this once proud nation’s principles for human rights and global security? Have we really become this thinly disguised parody of Aotearoa New Zealand – a nation suffering the slow inevitable consequence of no-values political exsanguination?
Perhaps we are in a better position now to answer those questions.
The answer is Yes.
New Zealand investigative journalist Jon Stephenson this morning revealed more details of New Zealand’s grubby modus operandi in Afghanistan.
On Radio New Zealand this morning, Stephenson revealed how an Afghan interpreter who worked extensively, in numerous roles, with Kiwi armed forces in Afghanistan was left high and dry by the New Zealand Government.
When Kiwi soldiers left Afghanistan to return to New Zealand the interpreter was left behind (unlike others who were fast tracked refugee status and settled into New Zealand society).
Stephenson reports how Hamid (not his real name) was then captured by the Taliban, threatened, injured and was destined for beheading, before escaping his captivity. Hamid’s life was only saved due to a Afghan government security raid on the Taliban who held him hostage.
Hamid is now in Kabul, but continues to fear for his life, especially as security in Kabul continues to deteriorate for those considered pro-West.
- Background: Back in 2012, when Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman visited the New Zealand Defence Force Provincial Reconstruction Team at Bamiyan, he was confronted by a group of PRT interpreters who said they would face death at the hands of insurgents if they were left behind when our soldiers left.
The government came up with a hastily-put together resettlement pack in late 2012. That package had significant flaws, and was revised two months later to include more interpreters who’d missed out.
Then there was a smaller group who had served for some time who also missed out and were granted residence, and more recently we have the cases of six former SAS interpreters who were also belatedly granted residence.
This man, who worked with the New Zealand Defence Force for more than six years, is just the latest example.
Immediately after this broadcast, Beehive spin doctors contacted Radio New Zealand complaining that Jon Stephenson was incorrect, that Hamid was not officially an interpreter, attempting to create some distance due to Hamid being a ‘contractor’ rather than on the official payroll.
The Beehive’s response is demonstrably out of step with the common values of fairness and justice that the majority of New Zealanders were raised on.
This knee-jerk reaction of our Government was another attempt to ‘shoot the messenger’ to discredit one of New Zealand’s most respected and internationally awarded journalists, rather than check out the details, discover its accuracy, and determine, if true, how a wrong can be put right.
Sadly that honourable response was not initially in evidence.
For the record, and in the public interest, I have obtained (and publish here) a letter specific to this Afghani interpreter’s case, written by a highly placed New Zealand Army captain who has officially on NZ Army letterhead sought the patriation of Hamid as a refugee.
In this letter, the New Zealand Army Captain writes:
Hamid “has worked with NZDF personnel for over six years and provided a variety of services to our personnel in theatre. This include logistical support, internet architecture, and support and more recently a greater role as an interpreter for both low and high level meetings in Kabul and the Bamian region.”
The Captain adds:
“Now that the allied forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan those who has (sic) served our nations faithfully are being targeted by the insurgents and the Taliban.”
He also states that Hamid has many skills, would contribute much to New Zealand, and has personal attributes that would see him easily settle here and gain full and worthwhile employment.
The Captain actually offers to sponsor Hamid so as to ensure he is provided a safe place of refuge away from those in Afghanistan who would wish to make an example of him by murdering him.
After the Beehive’s initial response, the Minister of Immigration’s people issued a statement to RNZ stating:
… every interpreter who has applied to come to New Zealand has been able to once they had undergone a security check and their credentials were verified. The process usually took 12 weeks and Hamid applied 10 weeks ago.
Minister Michael Woodhouse stated such applications take about three months to process (ref.)
Finally, the Minister looks set to fast track an application for Hamid’s settlement here. But it beggars belief why New Zealand’s Government has failed to act sooner, and only agreed to give this case the attention it rightly deserves after the man’s life was was almost taken through beheading with a knife. All this, only after a journalist had the courage to reveal the bureaucratic complacency.
If New Zealand is to again become a trustworthy country for those operating in high risk security-defence-intelligence theatre, then this National-led Government must abandon its self-serving inhuman style of operation, and begin to once again rebuild this country’s international credentials as an honest independent broker on the world stage.
If it did so, journalists like Jon Stephenson would be seen for the service they provide this country, and to the humanitarian cause, rather than be labeled by the Beehive’s forces as a divisive enemy of the New Zealand state.