Being a soldier for hire is dirty work. A soldier for hire is working for money. They aren’t driven by a set of principles, and are not fighting for a just cause or to defend their country. As such, they are often found working for unsavoury regimes, and at the hire of highly questionable people.
Individuals might find themselves compelled into such work. Even if we accept that some people will do unsavory things to make a living, you wouldn’t want those kinds of people in important positions of authority, where clear judgement is more important than that individual’s financial benefit.
Parliament would be the kind of place you would not expect to see a soldier for hire. But in New Zealand there is a mercenary in parliament- Ron Mark from New Zealand First.
The ‘honourable’ member isn’t shy about it either. His biography on the NZ First website includes the following:
“(Ron Mark) was one of five New Zealand Army officers sent to assist in setting up a new multi-national peace keeping operation the Sinai desert. Ron completed two back to back tours and was repatriated in 1983, but was refused permission by his corps to be posted to NZSAS to complete his training – a decision which resulted in Ron leaving the NZ Army in 1985 as a Captain and taking up an offer of service with the Sultan of Oman’s Land Forces and the Sultan’s Special Force in the Dhofar.”
Oman is far from a modern western democracy. It is ruled by an unelected hereditary Sultan, who has brutally put down calls for Democracy within Oman. From 1968-1976 there was an democratic rebellion which was brutally crushed, resulting in 10,000 civilian deaths. This uprising was based in Dhofar, where Mark was posted during his stint in Oman.
The Oman regime continues to have a highly questionable human rights record, particularly relating to political rights such as freedom of expression and assembly.
Ron Mark left Oman in 1990 to return to NZ and has spent much of the last 20 years building his political career in New Zealand. He is currently the deputy leader of NZ First, and should that party enter government after this year’s election, it would be likely that Ron mark would be pushing for a place in cabinet.
This should raise serious questions. Do we trust a hired gun for a theocratic dictatorship to be able to represent the interests of working New Zealanders? How can we trust this MP to respect human rights here?
Ben Peterson is a Union Rights Activist based in Auckland