‘Lie in unison’ issue only the tip of Zaoui iceberg

Green MP Keith Locke says the culture of secrecy revealed by the Ombudsman’s report into the ‘lie in unison’ affair in the Immigration Service is an inherent feature of the entire Zaoui debacle.

“Andrew Lockhart, the general manager of the Immigration Service, should go,” said Mr Locke, Green Party spokesperson on Human Rights.

“He created a climate of super-secrecy around the Zaoui case that infected those lower down, such as the author of the ‘lie in unison’ letter, Ian Smith. Smith should not be the fall guy for a problem infecting the whole department.

“We need a much more open and accountable Immigration Service. It should uphold the spirit of the Official Information Act and volunteer, rather than hide, documents.

“It is shocking what happened to Mr Zaoui at that time. He was being slandered as a terrorist and isolated in Paremoremo. When I first visited Mr Zaoui, just before the ‘lie in unison’ letter, he was denied access to a Koran, writing materials, a radio or contact with his family. For helping Mr Zaoui I was slandered in Ian Smith’s media log.

“It is good the Ombudsman is holding a broader inquiry into the way the Immigration Service, Corrections and Customs have, in my view, mishandled the Zaoui case.

“The comments from Mr Lockhart in the report show that the Immigration Service conspired with other agencies to keep Mr Zaoui and his case away from the public. The police view expressed in a memo just before the ‘lie in unison’ memo was that: ‘There is also a political risk that he [Mr Zaoui] will try to gain some support by utilizing the media’.

“This sort of anti-democratic reasoning seems to have consistently motivated officialdom in their dealings with Mr Zaoui. The anxiety about the media has been repeated in the Sri Lankan girl’s case, where it led to the demise of Lianne Dalziel.

“From day one, the Zaoui case has been bedevilled by the withholding of critical information by various government officials. For instance, we have only recently seen the summary of the SIS allegations against him, and they are either false or laughable.

“So far the only person coming out of this affair looking fully honest is Ahmed Zaoui himself. The Refugee Status Appeals Authority has described his answers to their questions as truthful, uncontrived and candid – even when the evidence may have proven to be disadvantageous.”