A fortnightly Green Bulletin of News, Action and Analysis
AIDING PEACEFUL DEVELOPMENT — NEW ZEALAND NEEDS TO DO MORE
was the message that the Green Party’s Overseas Development Assistance Spokesperson Keith Locke gave to the government on 16 May, just ahead of the 2006 Budget. Unfortunately, following the Budget announcements, Labour clearly did not respond to this challenge and has kept the aid level at a meagre .27% of GNI for 2006/07 moving to .28 % for 2007/08.
The Greens had hoped Thursday’s Budget would contain a significant increase in overseas development aid, if the Government was to honour its own election commitments and its post-election agreement with the Green Party. Keith noted that the New Zealand Government currently contributes only 0.27 percent of the country’s Gross National Income to overseas development aid, despite being officially committed to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
“Clearly, even Labour’s modest election promise of 0.35 percent of GNI by 2010 is unlikely to be achieved unless there is a significant percentage increase in aid within this budget,” Keith said.
“It is unacceptable to simply continue with the projections in last year’s budget, which envisage the aid level staying at 0.27 percent for 06/07, and increasing to only 0.28 percent in 07/08. Even Australia, which has already moved ahead of New Zealand by choosing to allocate 0.3 percent of GNI for 06/07, is projecting an aid level increase to 0.36 percent of GNI by 2010.
“The Labour-led government will have increased aid by a meagre 0.02 percent between the level it inherited upon coming to office in 1999, and the 0.28 percent level it is projecting to reach by 2008.
“This is far short of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which require us to reach 0.7 per cent by 2015. ”
UNDERMINING THE RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS OF AMERICANS — WHO, US?
”The Waihopai spies are the real anti-Americans,” said Green Party Security and Intelligence spokesperson Keith Locke on 12 May.
”The latest revelations that the US National Security Agency keeps huge data banks on the phone calls and e-mails of ordinary US citizens should prompt the Government to review its involvement with the Waihopai spy base,” he said.
“Waihopai makes New Zealand complicit in the actions of what looks more and more like an outlaw agency. The two satellite dishes at the Waihopai station near Blenheim pull down all the phones, faxes and e-mails passing through the two communications satellites over the equator.
“Late last year, the White House authorised the NSA to eavesdrop without warrants on international calls and e-mail traffic of US citizens. Now, we find that the NSA collects and maintains these huge data banks of domestic phone calls, e-mails and faxes.
“The information that we forward from Waihopai turns all of us into accomplices in this programme of dubious legality. Earlier this week, the US Department of Justice was forced to suspend its investigation of the NSA domestic spy programme,” Keith said.
“All too often, critics of White House policies get accused of being anti-American. But, as in this case, we are really speaking out to defend the American people from the actions of their own government.”
HEAR THE LATEST ON EAST TIMOR
– AUCKLAND, TUESDAY, 23 MAY, 7.30pm at St Columba Centre, 40 Vermont Street, Ponsonby, TIMOR L’ESTE/ACEH public meeting. Hear Jeanette Leslie who has spent several years working in Timor Leste report on her experiences and the situation there; and meet a student from Aceh whom the Indonesian Human Rights Committee is sponsoring to learn English. For a quick update on the current situation in East Timor, see Analysis, below.
TROUBLE IN TIMOR L’ESTE?
With the news that Australia is sending two of its warships into East Timorese waters, ostensibly to evacuate Australians if there is ‘more trouble’ there; with New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Phil Goff advising New Zealanders against going there; and with Timor L’Este’s Foreign Minister Dr Jose Ramos-Horta saying that he had not requested any assistance from Australia because he does not believe there will be any further violent flare-ups, and further that the Australian Government had not informed his Government about the deployment of the ships — is there really a chance that Timor L’Este is heading for more bad times? Ramos-Horta insists that East Timor does not need more military assistance, but says that more international police advisers would help provide stability, while La’o Hamutuk, the website of the Timor-Leste Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis, carried a story on what is really going on in Dili on 6 May. See below for this story, and go to
for the latest news (and backgrounders) on reconstruction in Timor L’Este.
From La’o Hamutuk, 6 May 2006
PANIC AND REALITY IN DILI
Few of the articles and opinions circulated on this list address the context which has caused many people to flee Dili in this week. Some people writing from far away seem almost eager to spread rumors and gossip about what is happening here, while many of us here understand that the exodus from Dili is more about post-traumatic stress and rumors than about anything real. Other institutions, including several national governments, issue statements for their own purposes, which reflect reality to varying degrees.
In fact, there has been no violence here for the last seven days, and many people travel freely around Dili with no problems. I drove across the whole city at 9 pm Thursday night and several times since then, and all was quiet. Electricity and water are functioning normally (much better than during most of the past six years). Timor Telecom, on the other hand, is not capable of handling peak phone and SMS loads and has become dysfunctional several times, a problem which will hopefully be addressed in coming weeks. But for last few days it has worked OK.
Most people’s fears are based on their past experiences — not just 1999 but 24 years of Indonesian military atrocities — rather than on actual evidence or current realities. It’s true that this fledgling government should have handled things better, and that several years of training by international advisors have failed to impart basic principles about rumor control, community policing, military-community relations, inappropriate display of big guns, prioritizing public concerns, and using the media to maintain calm. Nothing has been done to teach people in the wider population about post-traumatic stress. But we should realize that panic does not mean there’s a rational basis for fear, especially among traumatized people with few psychological or material reserves.
Many commentaries on the current situation refer to December 4, 2002 or to 1999, two recent times when groups of violent men spread panic in Dili. January 2, 2005 is equally relevant. On that day, a week after the tsunami in Aceh, a few people spread rumors in Dili and nearby coastal areas that a tsunami was about to strike and kill everybody. After large numbers of people fled to the mountains (disbelieving police assurances that there was no impending tsunami), many houses were robbed.
Over the last few days, I’ve been interviewed by several foreign journalists who asked what was happening here and who was behind the violence. I said that I didn’t know, that I have heard many rumors but haven’t been able to verify them. I also told them that anyone who claimed to know and told them a juicy story probably couldn’t verify their story either, and that responsible reporters would not publish unverified rumors. Of course that makes their jobs harder and may mean they have nothing easy to write about. Long-standing social, economic, psychological and governance problems are not as sexy as conspiracies, riots and wars, even if they are more real (albeit much harder to solve).
Propagation of sensationalist rumors, especially by international media or people outside Timor-Leste, only adds to the panic. Many Timorese here have received phone calls from friends and relatives overseas, saying they heard about some massive or impending violent event on the media or by email, and are calling to see if their families are OK. The natural reaction of some Dili residents (although some have the judgement to understand the reality) is “what do they know that I don’t?” or “if it’s in the foreign media it must be true,” which only increases their terror. But if you ask people what they are afraid of, who they are running from, or even where they are running to, they don’t know. In many cases, an hour of rational discussion has persuaded families not to flee, keeping the option open to shelter in a nearby church or school if violence begins. But in most families this discussion never happens.
In the last few days, public officials and the local media have shown a better understanding of people’s perceptions and fears, and of what should be done (in addition to leaders’ televised appeals for calm) to reduce the level of panic. This will hopefully continue in the following week, assuming that recent initiatives are followed through.
In the mean time, life in Dili continues peacefully, while we wait for clear facts — and for our neighbors to return home
JustPeace is produced by Christine Dann, Hannah Scott and Keith Locke, MP
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