Peters’ Claims See 200 Iraqis Attend Auckland Public Meeting
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor.
Over two hundred people mostly from New Zealand’s Iraqi community gathered Sunday in Pakuranga Auckland to discuss allegations levelled at Omer Ali and Amir Salman by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
Mr Peters had named Amir Salman of Bucklands Beach and Omer Ali of Howick as having connections to Saddam Hussein’s regime. He said in Parliament on Tuesday May 31: “This is the real point: what is a former chief person in the police of Saddam Hussein, Omer Ali, doing here, and what are two Baath Party group leaders—key apparatchiks in the Baath Party—Jazwan and Amir Salman, doing here?”
Scoop Image: The Auckland Iraqi community called a public meeting on Sunday to discuss recent accusations by New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, that Omer Ali and Amir Salman were connected to Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Mr Ali and Mr Salman spoke at Sunday’s public meeting and denied being members of Saddam Hussein’s regime, nor members of the former Iraqi dictator’s police force.
Omer Ali said the slur on his character is based on lies and that he is a qualified engineer who arrived in New Zealand in 1997. He believes false allegations have been fed to Mr Peters, perhaps due to an incident that developed two years ago when he testified supporting a “kiwi lady” after a traffic accident involving this woman and another Iraqi.
Scoop Image: Omer Ali (left) and Amir Salman spoke at a public meeting arranged by the Auckland Iraqi community on Sunday June 4 2005.
Orewa based barrister Colin Henry (educated at Yale University USA) told the audience what is happening is not unique: “Today it is your (Iraqi immigrants’) turn, last week it was Asian Chinese and before that it was West Africans”.
Mr Henry said he had been a lawyer for 24 years, educated at Yale, and yet “I too had been singled out (at the New Zealand border) because of my skin colour.”
Progressive MP Matt Robson said Mr Peters’ comments ought to be challenged: “It is fair and right that loyal and hardworking New Zealanders, and their Kiwi-born children, stand up against the incredible allegations directed at them from National's potential coalition partner, the NZ First Party.”
He said the Progressive Party has told Labour that it will not enter a coalition group with New Zealand First: “There can be no talk of a kingmaker if there is no kingdom for him to enter,” Matt Robson told the audience.
Green Party MP Keith Locke also urged the Iraqi community and all New Zealanders to stand up to Mr Peters’ claims.
At New Zealand First's immigration policy launch at Orewa on May 27, Mr Peters said he would continue to raise immigration issues despite critics labelling him as racist: "Whenever New Zealand First raises this issue (immigration), or when my colleagues talk about it, the first words that come to their minds is racism and xenophobic. We raise it for one simple reason, we raise it because you actually have a choice about these demographic projections," Mr Peters said. (For more see… State Of It: Fear And Loathing… In Orewa NZ. See also New Zealand First's immigration policy launch speech… and Winston Peters' immigration policy press release. )
In Parliament on Tuesday May 31 Mr Peters continued to level allegations also criticising the government for not acting on immigration policy breaches. He said: “If a member of Cabinet is given the names and locations of people whose entitlement to be here is in question, why is that not enough information for all the agencies of the law in this country to act; or will we see the same thing happen that has occurred in respect of the Ali family—even though they have been challenged to have DNA tests, no one at this point in time is verifying anything about their fraudulent applications?”
Associate Minister of Immigration Damien O'Connor replied: “The member has provided very little information. He has provided three names, one a man named Jazwan. That is not sufficient to accurately identify people, let alone to work out whether the accusations and claims the member makes are true.”
Mr Peters again asked: “How many Iraqis from the Saddam Hussein regime has the Government caught thus far, since this issue was brought to the Minister’s attention many years ago?”
Mr O'Connor replied: “I cannot answer that question, but if the member wishes to forward a written question I will be more than happy to answer it. It would help if the member could provide more information around his claims. I am happy to meet him after question time to get that information.”
Labour Cabinet minister Chris Carter attended Sunday’s meeting. He committed to “following up” with Immigration Minister Paul Swain an Iraqi family’s claim that immigration formalities were being stonewalled.
He said the Government is currently reviewing all visa applications and decisions involving those from Iraq. He was not able to give clarity to how long this process would take.
But Progressive Party deputy leader, Matt Robson told Scoop on Monday June 5 that the Labour Party, the Green Party, and the National Party ought to rule out New Zealand First as a potential coalition partner due to the tone of Mr Peters' allegations.
Mr Robson said: "There are clear dividing lines for Parties… or there should be. One is that it is impossible to defend your communities and policies if you collaborate with parties that use racism to divide. There is no choice. They have to be rejected."
He said: "I would like to point out that (the government has made) concession after concession… to Mr Peters and daily Mary-Anne Thompson (deputy secretary of Department of Labour) or Paul Swain (Minister of Immigration) appear in the media giving credence to the need to tighten up because we are overrun by 'undesirables'. Isn't the language of Peters interesting? Isn't the adaptation to him?"
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