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Clear Up Ransom And Hostage Policy

ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks is calling on the Government to state its policy for dealing with ransom demands. "We need to know without delay because the Prime Minister has increased the risk for every child in New Zealand.

"In saying about the decision to underwrite a $3 million ransom demand: `It wasn't much of a decision really - there was a baby's life at stake' she has told every would-be kidnapper or hostage taker that the poor can now be as vulnerable as the rich. She cannot say it was a policy only for the case we have just had.

"Every baby must be given equal value. Surely some can't have more value than others?

If the Government is standing behind payment of ransom demands when a child's life is threatened, then every child has a potential value to the kidnapper. Kidnappers only have to persuade themselves that unlike the ones who get caught they will get away with it.

"We need to know whether the Government will only step in when outrageously big demands are made which a family might be expected to be able to meet - or will it be for all families?

"If it is only when the demands are outrageous why would every kidnapper not make an outrageous demand?

"When I became an MP I was told by experienced MPs that the New Zealand Government had learned from Israel. They told me that in dealing in with hostage takers or other kinds of terrorist behaviour, including kidnapping, the Cabinet would have to look at the long term result of offering a deal. Compassion in a particular case could invite repeats or worse for a whole string of successors. I understood and agreed with the reasoning that a truly compassionate Government can not allow itself to be held to ransom for an MP or other prominent New Zealander.

"The Government must immediately clarify its policy. Helen Clark has the power to over-ride the prudent police policy of not divulging such information. But now the precedent has been set. It must be properly explained. We can not count on such wonderful outcomes form Police work, as in Kahu's case, in all future cases.

"If there is doubt about the Government's resolve we could be condemned to see more kidnappings," Stephen Franks said.


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