Let’s not ignore human rights

The Cricket World Cup has just opened in New Zealand, and it’s an opportunity for us to shine on the world stage. International sport can be a chance for us to build relationships with other countries, and examine what it means to be New Zealanders; who we are, what we stand for, and what we value.

Remember when New Zealanders took a moral stand and protested vigorously against the Springbok rugby tour back in 1981? We could see that engaging with a government who denied human rights to a majority of the population based on their skin colour was wrong. We took a moral stand, putting people’s lives before politics. Thirty-four years later, our Prime Minister and his government take a very different view. John Key’s Government personally invited former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the opening of the Cricket World Cup. Mr Rajapaksa is currently under investigation by the United Nations for war crimes that were committed during the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed. But in Parliament this week, John Key stated that it was ‘normal’ to invite democratically elected world leaders; regardless of if they are under investigation by the United Nations. Our Government has shown a willingness to collude with a war criminal political leader. They have placed trade and sports above human dignity.  If we’re willing to host a suspected war criminal, perhaps we should roll out of the welcome mat for Robert Mugabe too? If Slobodan Milosevic was still around, would he also sit in the VIP seats in Christchurch?  Thank goodness Liberia’s democratically-elected former president Charles Taylor has already been sentenced for war crimes; otherwise he might have had the box seats too.

Most of us only know three things about Sri Lanka – they make good tea, they have good spin bowlers in their cricket team and they have just come out of a civil war.

Most of us only know three things about Sri Lanka – they make good tea, they have good spin bowlers in their cricket team and they have just come out of a civil war.  What we don’t know is the suffering and the continued struggle that goes on for those still being persecuted. Hence as the Cricket World Cup gets under way, we should focus not only on the joys of playing against Sri Lanka but also the record of their government in terms of war crimes and ongoing subjugation of the Tamil population. While the Government seem willing to involve New Zealand troops in anti-ISIS activities on the basis of that group’s human rights abuses, it’s hypocritical to ignore the brutality in Sri Lanka and make trade deals with other countries with dubious human rights records.

We hope cricket fans enjoy the World Cup but we would like them to know our Government is doing more than playing sport with Sri Lanka; they are ignoring the need for an international investigation in to this genocide. The Green Party wants an independent investigation into all atrocities in Sri Lanka. Unless the outside world is allowed into Sri Lanka to investigate what has happened and what is still happening to Tamil communities a new era of peace and reconciliation cannot be developed. This is what Tamils in Sri Lanka have been pleading for.

We’re on the Security Council, John Key wants us to play with the big kids and be part of the ‘club’, but yet he lacks the courage and strength that New Zealanders displayed during the Springbok Tour when they stood up against apartheid and oppression.  We as New Zealanders need to take a long hard look at our Government and let them know ignoring human rights just not cricket.