PM shouldn’t sign away our right to criticise human rights abusers

The Greens are warning the Prime Minister against signing a non-interference pact with ASEAN, because it would inhibit New Zealand’s ability to stand up publicly to human rights violators.

“We shouldn’t sign away our right to speak out against human rights abuses in South East Asia,” Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke said.

“Instead of joining ASEAN countries in a ‘non-interference’ declaration, we should be encouraging them to be more forthright about the need for political freedom.

“Our reasons for not signing the Amity and Cooperation Treaty are different from John Howard’s. He claims, as America’s deputy sheriff, the right of pre-emptive strike against Asian countries. We can assure ASEAN we are happy to sign the treaty’s non-aggression clause, but we reserve the right to speak up when international human rights standards are violated.

“New Zealand should champion the rights of the downtrodden, whether it be in Burma, or in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and West Papua. We can’t stand by while people are killed, tortured and imprisoned.

“No ASEAN country is yet fully democratic. It would only slow progress on civil liberties for New Zealand to go soft now.”