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Action Alert - Rocket launchers in Auckland ? - Update

Peace Movement Aotearoa

PO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173,

Issued 25 February 1999

25 Feb 1999

Kia ora,

The first hour (of two) of hearings for oral submissions on the Arms Amendment Bill took place this morning. Michael Gilchrist (Trade Union Federation), Gillian Southey (Christian World Service) and Aziz Choudry (GATT Watchdog) gave their submissions opposing the Bill for a range of reasons amidst general disinterest from the members of the Select Committee - Derek Quigley, Marie Hasler, Geoff Braebrooke, Annabel Young, Wayne Mapp, Di Yates and Matt Robson - only the last two seemed to share any of the concerns of those making submissions.

Marie Hasler and Geoff Braebrooke distinguished themselves by chatting away during the presentations, then asking quite bizarre questions.

Geoff Braebrooke was adamant that the law change would only allow hand guns to be brought into the country by foreign agents - despite almost every paragraph of the Bill referring to : ... " firearms, airguns, pistols and restricted weapons" ... not a mention of handguns only in the Bill at all, shame he hadn't read it.

For more info on the Bill, see the GATT Watchdog release below, or the previous PMA alerts and updates on our web site

GATT Watchdog
PO Box 1905
Aotearoa/New Zealand


24 February 1999

"Arms For APEC" Bill Ill-considered and Abhorrent: Rerun of Vancouver APEC Security Debacle Predicted For New Zealand

"Leave the Arms Act alone! The Arms Amendment Bill should be rejected and no permission given to foreign security officers to carry arms in New Zealand for APEC. It is ill-considered and helps set us up for a rerun of the outrageous security debacle which involved armed overseas security personnel at APEC in Vancouver in 1997 and which continues to haunt the Chretien government," says GATT Watchdog spokesman Aziz Choudry.

"This bill will have a 'chilling effect' on the rights of New Zealand citizens to lawful advocacy, protest and dissent. It panders to the dubious security whims of other APEC "economies" - particularly the USA. It opens us up to the spectre of intimidation and actual harm by armed overseas security personnel, operating in an unfamiliar environment, with scant knowledge, or regard of New Zealanders' rights," said Mr Choudry.

Mr Choudry was in Vancouver at the time of the 1997 APEC Leaders Summit. Last month he returned to meet with some of those most affected by the controversial security operations, and had access to many files of official documents relating to the matter. An excerpt from these, and relevant Canadian media items have been submitted to the Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Select Committee considering the law change.

"In 1997, Washington pressured Canada into allowing a small army of US security officers to carry arms. Documents show that one APEC economy - thought to be the USA - even wanted to take part in a threat assessment group to spy on Canadian organisations and individuals. Armed security personnel from eight countries were present in Canada for the APEC Summit."

"And what happened? Indonesian security officers threatened to shoot Canadian protesters, and repeatedly breached security protocols. Canadian police arrested five Indonesian security personnel, after a heavily-armed vehicle of Mounties had tailed the Indonesians, and at one stage discussed the possible scenario of having to shoot them. Canadian police have tried to blame their own heavyhanded security operations at APEC '97 on the presence of the armed Indonesian contingent."

A high-profile inquiry into over 50 complaints against Canadian police reconvenes in March, with moves afoot to subpoena Jean Chretien after evidence showing that the Prime Minister's Office was directly involved in the APEC security operation, at which a crowd of non-violent protesters was peppersprayed, and dozens violently arrested.

"It is naive to think that New Zealand will be able to independently set security protocols or that overseas security personnel will be subject to the authority of the Police Commissioner. US security personnel will greatly influence - if not in large part determine the nature of security operations for the Leaders Summit. The government says it cannot even determine the extent of traffic disruption to Auckland, whether postal and courier deliveries, and waste collections will be carried out in Auckland unil "we get a clearer picture of the security requirements of visiting delegations". Who exactly is calling the shots here? Obviously not Wellington".

"New Zealand security observers were present at Vancouver. If there is a similar security crackdown around APEC 1999, and the government later becomes embroiled in a similar scandal as that engulfing Ottawa, with armed overseas security officers on the loose, they won't be able to say that they were not warned."

"If New Zealand security forces cannot provide adequate security for APEC, the government should never have offered to host it. The status quo was good enough for CHOGM and Madeleine Albright's recent visit - why not the APEC circus. New Zealand governments can stand up to Washington over nuclear ships - but clearly not Clinton's armed Secret Service guys" .

"The security hype around APEC warrants the same caution as the over-inflated claims about APEC's benefits. There is little or no acknowledgement of the gulf that exists between preparedness to counter a genuine security threat to VIPs and the desire to guarantee a "political embarrassment-free" APEC for all involved. It is the latter that has driven past APEC security operations".

"The Weekend Australian dubbed APEC '98 in Kuala Lumpur "an event that swings between the ominous and the ludicrous". This proposed law change is both. But all the armed security personnel in the world can't protect APEC from shooting itself in the foot," he said.

GATT Watchdog spokesman Aziz Choudry will speak to the group's submission to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee on the proposed bill at 10.30am tomorrow, Thursday 25 February.

For further comment contact Aziz Choudry (03) 3662803; or (021) 217 3039

For further information about the role of foreign security officers in the APEC 1997 security operation in Canada, ph: Jonathan Oppenheim (+1) (604) 224 2482 or 822 1393 or Jaggi Singh (+1) (514) 526 8946

You can also find further information in PMA's earlier Action Alert Rocket launchers in Auckland?.

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