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Whitewashing Agent Orange
. The Green Party’s Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley labelled the Government’s “release” of documents relating to Agent Orange on January 26 as “a PR stunt”.
“This is an attempt by the Government to sideline the very real concerns of Kiwi veterans and ordinary Vietnamese people about the possible export from New Zealand of ingredients used to make Agent Orange,” Sue said.
”The vast majority of these papers were already in the public arena, so Mr Burton [Defence Minister] has not been ‘releasing’ anything of significance. Rather, he has simply reheated old, inconclusive information in a vain attempt to spin a decidedly uncomfortable issue for the Government.”
Ms Kedgley, who was in Vietnam earlier this month to speak to an international conference about Agent Orange, is calling on the Government to release any and all information it holds – whether Cabinet papers, memoranda, policy advice documents, or communication between and within government agencies – about the issue of Agent Orange.
and see her speech to the conference under Analysis, below.
Aid For Peace
. Responding to the tsunami tragedy on 17 January, Keith Locke urged the Cabinet to be generous. He said that currently our overseas aid expenditure is a pitiful 0.24 percent of Gross National Income.
“In its five years in office, the government has acted as if there were no votes in overseas aid, letting the level stagnate around 0.24% of GNI, against a world standard of 0.7%. Despite pressure from the Greens and the New Zealand aid community, the Government has refused to adopt any programme whatsoever to get the aid level up to 0.7 percent by 2015, the target date adopted at the Millennium Summit.”
The following day Keith “welcomed the Prime Minister’s comment at her post-cabinet press conference that she would like to move New Zealand’s aid budget towards the 0.7 percent of GNI target” but challenged her to make a commitment.
On 14 January Keith said that NZ should join the call for a ceasefire in Aceh to help aid effort.
“It’s shocking that aid is not reaching those who desperately need it because of Indonesian military restrictions. New Zealand should be joining other governments in pushing for an end to all fighting in Aceh. Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew brought up the matter during his talks in Jakarta earlier this week, and it would be good if our Prime Minister would also speak publicly on the matter,” Keith said.
“A stable ceasefire is necessary if aid is to flow freely to the devastated villages along Aceh’s west coast. Military restrictions on aid delivery should be rejected by the international community. The Red Cross and other aid groups have to be non-partisan, and can’t go around Aceh accompanied by troops, as the Indonesian government wants them to.”
Aid For Aceh
. News updates on the doubly tragic situation in Aceh province can be found on the
Peace Movement Aotearoa website
”Aceh emergency – urgent appeal
30 December 2004
This appeal originated from TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign with the ‘suggested action’ section modified by Peace Movement Aotearoa for local use.
The people of Aceh are suffering the gravest catastrophe in their history in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, which struck on 26 December 2004.
The devastation and humanitarian crisis are unprecedented. The official death toll is currently 52,000 [*update: the confirmed death toll has now reached 80,000 and is still rising]. The final figure could be as high as 100,000. Tens of thousands are homeless and facing the prospect of killer diseases.
The disaster has been compounded by chaotic mismanagement by the Indonesian authorities and the legacy of decades of violent conflict. A war has been raging in the territory since the 1970s between the Indonesian military and the separatist Free Aceh Movement, GAM.
The Indonesian government’s response to the crisis has been slow, lacked coherence and demonstrated a reluctance, for political reasons associated with the conflict, to involve the international community…The government has severely restricted access to Aceh by international humanitarian organisations since the imposition of martial law in May 2003…
Intimidation and violence against local NGOs by the security forces have incapacitated civil society and severely curtailed their ability to respond to the crisis.
It is essential that local and foreign organisations are allowed to operate freely in Aceh for an unlimited length of time. The role of the military must be restricted to humanitarian and reconstruction tasks. There must be no return to the oppressive military conditions which have caused so much suffering to the Acehnese and exacerbated the current crisis.
Rigorous steps must also be taken to ensure that corruption, which is an acknowledged problem in Aceh, is not allowed to dissipate the aid effort.
The needs of the Acehnese are now acute. Please do all you can to help them cope with this terrible tragedy.
TAPOL works with a number of grassroots humanitarian and human rights organisations in Aceh and is launching this appeal so that funds can be used by them to optimum effect where it is most needed by local people.
Make a donation, however small, to the Aceh Relief Fund – details are at
. If you don’t have a credit card, or it is difficult for you to transfer money overseas, then you could instead give something to one of the NZ agencies listed on that web page who are all involved in providing assistance to the people of Aceh, as well as to those in other tsunami devastated areas.
Please contact Phil Goff and your own member of parliament (preferably by phone with a follow-up letter, fax or email) and ask the government to press the Indonesian government:
- To lift all restrictions on access to Aceh by international humanitarian organisations, aid workers and journalists;
- To seek as much assistance as is necessary from the international community and allow aid to be delivered directly by international organisations;
- To limit the military’s role to humanitarian and reconstruction tasks and permanently halt all other military activities in the province.
If you would like more information about the situation in Aceh, and an example of a letter to Phil Goff about this, see
PMA — Information on Aceh
Contact details for Phil Goff, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, are: tel (04) 470 6553, fax (04) 495 8444, email, or write to him at Parliament Buildings, Wellington (no stamp required). Contact details for all MPs are available online at
MP’s in Parliament
The Toxins Of War — Yesterday And Today
. One of the worst features of twentieth (and now twenty-first) century warfare has been the unleashing of persistent deadly toxins as weapons of war. From the gases of World War I which went on slowly destroying the lungs and other organs of combatants long after the war ended, to the defoliants used in jungle warfare in South East Asia from the 1950s to the 1980s (which continue to kill and deform civilians, combatants, and their offspring), to the use of uranium in bombs and shell casings which persists in the environment and goes on killing and harming long after the weapons are fired, these toxins of war are now one of the most serious and dangerous environmental pollutants in dozens of countries. Thirty years after the Vietnam War ended the impacts of Agent Orange are still being felt. Sue Kedgley talks about this in her speech to the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum on January 11 (below), while on Sunday Supplement on 23 January Lois Griffiths talked about the present and coming impacts of another war toxin — depleted uranium.
”Speech by Sue Kedgley, delegate from New Zealand to the
13th Annual Meeting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF),
Viet Nam, 11th January 2005
Mr Chairman, the tragedy of the recent tsunami casts a very long shadow over the beginning of the year. It shows just how fragile and how vulnerable our world is and that no matter how clever and sophisticated our technology, every single member of the human race is totally vulnerable to the forces of nature and this is a very humbling lesson for us all. And as a Green party member of Parliament I hope it will encourage us all to treat nature with greater respect.
On behalf of the people of New Zealand I would like to extend our sincerest condolences to the people and governments of the affected areas. New Zealand has experienced many natural disasters and earthquakes and so we feel real empathy for the victims and both our government and the people of New Zealand have contributed generously.
Experience of disasters has shown that money often dries up when the television cameras have left so it is crucial that we continue our assistance into the future and that we also consider the issue of debt relief or moratorium for the affected countries.
The countries most affected by the tsunami are paying $78 billion annually in interest and repayments on their foreign debt. This dwarfs the amount of disaster relief on offer. It is a travesty that these countries spend $214 million each day in debt repayments when people are dying for lack of food, shelter and water.
Secondly I would like to congratulate the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for their magnificent work in organising this conference, and for their generous hospitality. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Vietnamese people for their courageous struggle for independence over many decades and indeed centuries.
Like hundreds of thousands of people around the world my first political act at age 18 was to take part in protests against the war in Vietnam and New Zealand’s participation in it and it was a source of shame for me to visit the War Crimes museum in Ho Chi Min city and see New Zealand represented as one of the participants in that pointless and destructive war. I believe it is very appropriate to raise at this session of the forum, being held in Vietnam, an important political issue that is a legacy of that tragic war and that is ongoing plight of the estimated 3.8 million victims of Agent Orange which was sprayed over large areas of Vietnam during this war.
I have had the privilege during my stay in Vietnam to meet with the 1080 committee which is representing the victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam and which is taking a court case seeking compensation for the victims from the companies that manufactured Agent Orange. Our delegation also visited a village where second and third generation children whose parents were doused with Agent Orange live, and we saw at first hand the terrible deformities and terrible suffering they continue to endure.
In New Zealand we have just conducted an investigation into the effects of Agent Orange on our veterans and our government has finally apologised to our veterans for failing to acknowledge the ongoing health effects of Agent Orange.
Our veterans, along with American and Australian veterans have been given some financial compensation as a result of a court case against chemical companies which was settled out of court some years ago. But the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange have never been compensated for their suffering. So we believe it would be appropriate in this forum to express our solidarity with the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange and to call on the international community to assist an estimated 3.8 million Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange and to pledge never again to use chemical weapons in warfare.
There are many other issues of concern to us -the spread of HIV/aids in the Pacific, the threat of Bird flu, and the threat of global warming and the rise in ocean levels to small states in the Pacific.
New Zealand has long had a nuclear free policy and it is overwhelmingly supported by the people of New Zealand. Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and reducing the stockpile of existing weapons is a major goal of New Zealand’s foreign policy. We are gravely concerned that North Korea has reactivated its nuclear programme and renounced its obligations under the Non Proliferation Treaty. We hope this issue will be resolved peacefully by dialogue and for that reason we support North Korea’s participation in a future session of the APPF.
On the issue of terrorism we believe that the battle against terrorism will not be won unless we tackle the causes that feed it. Our failure to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and the huge gap between the rich and poor contributes to the terrorists’ ability to recruit and gain funding and public sympathy. So too does the unlawful detaining of suspected terrorists for long periods of time without trial and the atrocious conditions some are being held in which have screened around the world. We must be careful that in the fight against terrorism we do not erode human rights and we applaud Britain’s highest court which has recently condemned the unlawful detention without trial of suspects in that country.
Finally our government supports and greatly values the APPF and the opportunity it affords for dialogue and debate. We welcome Indonesia’s offer to host the next session of the APPF and we would like to offer to host the 2007 meeting of the APPF.
Speech archived at
Greens: Agent Orange Speech, Viet Nam
A Name And A Face To Tragedy
Sunday Supplement, 23/01/05
”Eight-year old Zodwa placed photographs of her mother inside her small metal box – her “memory box” -and then carefully painted a star and a teddy bear on the lid. She was not sure why her mother said the box was so important and, for that matter, why it was called a memory box. But the Zulu child will soon find out. Zodwa’s mother Nomsa has Aids. She will almost certainly die within months, but before dying, Nomsa will write a letter to her young daughter. In it she will tell of her sadness at leaving Zodwa.
“I will tell her to be a good child and to work hard in school. I will tell her that I am very hurt to leave her, that I will still love her from heaven.” And then the dying woman will read the letter to Zodwa before folding it and placing it in the box.
The stories of Zodwa and others were repeated by the Guardian Weekly during its Christmas appeal in 1991 for funds to help HIV orphans in Africa. For it is a truism that we find it hard to respond to numbing statistics of suffering, and the UN report for that year was an estimated 12 million orphans on the continent. But hearing a few details of one person, a person with a name, especially a child with a name, moves us. We want to help and we are angry that the rich countries, with their hundreds of billions for weapons, do so little.
In the same way, The Diary of Anne Frank brings home the horrors of the Holocaust. In spite of reading that millions were rounded up and transported to death camps , it doesn’t quite seem real until we are given a name and a story. Then we are angry that such atrocities could have taken place not so long ago historically in civilized Europe.
I want to tell you about another child, victim of an ongoing atrocity that many in today’s
west would rather not be exposed to. Thirteen year old Jassim lay listless, dying, in a hospital in Baghdad when he was visited by the English writer Felicity Arbuthnot. You can read about Jassim in the new book Tell Me No Lies , edited by John Pilger. Jassim was suffering from a virulent form of leukemia. Iraq has seen an enormous increase in childhood cancers which many link to the use of missiles and bullets coated with depleted uranium .
When the doctor told Jassim that Felicity was a writer, he sat up and excitedly showed her the exercise book from under his pillow. He was going to be a poet when he grew up, he told her. And he showed her the quotes he had saved that had special meaning for him, and the poems he had written.
Jassim did not grow up. He was a victim both of the massive bombardments of Basra, his home, in 1991, and the US and UK imposed sanctions that kept medical supplies out of Iraq.
In her article, Felicity Arbuthnot goes on to describe how cancers had risen in Iraq by up to 70% since the first Gulf War, and how the use of depleted uranium by Britain and the US left a radioactive dust that entered the food chain via the water table and soil. She goes on to describe hideously deformed babies. And this article was written in 1999!
Why is there no anger in the west about the crimes against Iraqi children that have been and are being committed now in the name of Western civilization? About the bombing, the sanctions, the destruction of water and sanitation services, the use of depleted uranium, of tanks and helicopter gunships to flatten Fallujah, a city the size of Christchurch, my city?
Our silence is acquiescence. We are let down by Western corporate media who deny us the opportunity to know who the people are who are being killed in such vast numbers. No photos, no interviews, no names, unlike the saturation coverage given to the tsunami victims. Maybe it is only by being able to put a name to a child that we can begin to angry about the massive injustice in the world.
Before he died Felicity Arbuthnot told Jassim that poems live on and are able to touch others. She was able to get some of his poems published but he died before she could tell him the news. We’ve been told that some 500,000 children died because of the sanctions.
Jassim is just one.”
JustPeace was produced by Christine Dann, Tim Hannah and Keith Locke, MP
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