Keith Locke

Latest terrorist designations undermine New Zealand’s role as a peacemaker

by Keith Locke

One of my aims, as a Green MP, has been to get New Zealand to specialise in international peacemaking, using Norway as a model.

Norway has used its good offices, and specialist advisers, to sponsor peace talks in Sri Lanka, Sudan, the Middle East, and the Philippines.

It has been able to play this mediating role because it has not declared any of the parties to the talks as terrorist organisations.

Norway has had mixed success. In the Sudan progress was made because the big Western powers also engaged with the peace process, and this year there will be a referendum on independence in southern Sudan. The peace talks in Sri Lanka broke down, mainly because instead of engaging the US, Britain, Australia and the EU sided with one party, the Sri Lankan government, and declared the Tamil Tigers a terrorist organisation. Around 30,000 Sri Lankans died in the war that followed.

Since Benigno Aquino assumed the Philippine presidency in June there have been hopes for a resumption of stalled peace negotiations between the government and the leftist National Democratic Front, hosted by Norway.

These are made more difficult by the US declaring the two main components of the NDF, the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army, to be terrorist organisations.

Yesterday John Key followed suit, putting these two organisations on New Zealand’s terrorist list.

He also put six other organisations on the list, including the military wings of Hamas and Hizbollah. This is plain silly, when surely the main task of countries like New Zealand is to encourage peace negotiations between Israel and the governments in Gaza (Hamas) and Lebanon (where the government includes Hizbollah ministers).

In his statement yesterday John Key said that “All seven of the entities [designated] have carried out various terrorist acts, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians.”

Yes, in the conflict in the Middle East and the Philippines many civilians have been killed, but both sides have been to blame. In fact, if you read the reports of Amnesty International and other human rights agencies, the governments of Israel and The Philippines have been responsible for most of the ‘indiscriminate killing of civilians”.

We need peace talks to solve these conflicts, not countries like New Zealand defining one side as the ‘terrorists’ and encouraging a military solution.

Published in Justice & Democracy by Keith Locke on Wed, October 13th, 2010   

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