by Selwyn Manning
With Indonesia¡¯s role in the East Timor atrocities under the world spotlight, protest groups in Auckland are gearing up for a week of action. But there is an unease prevailing.
Tonight¡¯s announcement that Indonesian President B.J. Habibie will stay away from Auckland¡¯s APEC meetings will only increase protest numbers.
Today¡¯s protest group, which marched on the Heritage Hotel where Indonesian officials are in residence, gathered in strength the longer it marched.
Fears of heavy-handed Indonesian security agents running amuck in Auckland abound. The Green¡¯s party has called for the New Zealand Government to disarm Indonesian agents.
APEC Monitoring Group organiser Aziz Choudry says his group is prepared for resistance.
¡°If we look at the overseas experience of security forces in Vancouver, as soon as the Indonesians hit the ground they were refusing to obey the local police.
¡°At the end of the day a number of the Indonesian security contingent was arrested at gunpoint,¡± Choudry says. ¡°One of these guys kept asking the police what would happen if he shot a protester¡±
The Canadians dispatched a Royal Canadian Mounted Police operation to keep watch over the Indonesian security.
¡°So yes, within the protest groups there is concerns about the chilling effect of having security, both New Zealand Police and whatever other foreign army and security personnel that is here too.
¡°The message to us is not as blunt as ¡®shut your mouth or you will risk being shot¡¯, but if we are going to be facing such security, and we have them here from Indonesia and the USA, then there are some real reasons to be wary,¡± Choudry says.
He says a dangerous situation arised after the New Zealand Government passed legislation making it easier for overseas security to bear arms.
¡°There is a level in which I think the Government has been mischievous in whipping up the security hype specially around US President Bill Clinton, and saying ¡®it is really important to make sure nothing really bad happens to him on New Zealand soil¡¯. What this has ended up doing is cracking down on people¡¯s democratic rights.¡±
But Choudry says, security danger is part and parcel of world trade meetings: "This is what these guys do, this is what security agencies do. But the question is, is that okay?"