Government dragging chain on Burma issues

Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke has criticised the Government for giving the green light to a publicly owned company, Kordia, to build cell-phone towers in Burma.

“It’s shocking that our Government should be encouraging a state-owned company to help the Burmese regime, one of the most ruthless in the world,” said Mr Locke says.

“This is not the way to conduct a moral foreign policy.

“If New Zealand truly supports democracy in Burma, we should heed the call of imprisoned pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, not to do business with the regime.

“New Zealand has been the most backward Western country in implementing sanctions against the Burmese junta. The US has sanctions in investments in Burma, as well as on imports. The European Union bans the import of items such as timber and gemstones. Australia, the EU and the US all have frozen the financial assets for the junta.

“In answer to my Written Parliamentary Questions our Government says it is waiting for the UN to move. It will be a long wait because China will veto any sanctions resolutions in the Security Council.

“Our Government also claims there is not a legislative basis to introduce sanctions, yet there is no sign of urgency to introduce empowering legislation. New Zealand has imposed unilateral sanctions in the past, against South Africa and Rhodesia using the Customs Act. [See the Government’s answer last month to my Written Parliamentary Question 20836]

“The least the Government should do today is give a moral lead, first off by preventing any state-owned company helping the junta through its operations in Burma.