Communist League leader protests harassment
Communist League leader protests harassment
*by customs officers at Auckland airport***
A leader of the Communist League, Annalucia Vermunt, has issued an open letter to government officials protesting at how she was treated by customs officers at Auckland International Airport after they detained her on November 17. Vermunt, a meat worker, has been a Communist League candidate in elections, including standing for Manukau East in the November general election. She is an active unionist and has been involved over two decades in political campaigns for Maori rights, women's rights, and other working class struggles.
Over 90 fellow meat workers in Otahuhu, Auckland, have signed Vermunt's protest letter, as have officials of her union, the National Distribution Union, including national president Robert Reid and national secretary Laila Harré. The letter has been signed by other union members and officials as well as by members of political organisations and supporters of civil liberties.
Vermunt was detained at Auckland airport for over four hours. After subjecting her to two interrogations, searching her bags and taking swabs, officials found no evidence of narcotics or contraband. Despite this, she was subjected to a degrading strip search. Then, again without cause, officers continued to detain Vermunt and subjected her to a third interrogation. The customs official demanded that she answer questions about her political activity as a leader of the Communist League.
Vermunt's letter to the ministers of immigration and customs demands that such harassment by officials of their departments cease. Vermunt was previously detained by customs officials at Christchurch airport in 2005 and 2006.
Other individuals signing the protest letter include solicitor and Maori rights activist Annette Sykes; professor of law at the University of Auckland, David Williams; Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty; Helen Te Hira of the Council of Trade Unions Runanga; national secretary of the Service and Food Workers Union, John Ryall; national secretary of the Unite union, Matt McCarten; John Minto of Global Peace and Justice; Omar Hamed of the Auckland University Students Association; and Maire Leadbeater of the Indonesia Human Rights Committee. The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom signed as an organisation.
Annalucia Vermunt commented, "What happened to me is an illustration of how increased powers being granted to police, immigration, and customs will be and are being used to target working class activists and political dissent. The October 15, 2007 police 'anti-terrorism' raids targeting Maori rights supporters demonstrated this. So too does the revelation last weekend of a 10-year infiltration of political organisations in Christchurch by a police spy." Vermunt and the Communist League were among those spied on by Rob Gilchrist, the police informant. "It is important that every violation of our rights, such as happened to me at the airport, is met with a response," Vermunt said. "That's why it is significant that so many have joined me in submitting this open protest letter."
Vermunt's lawyer, Matt Robson, has written to the ministers of immigration, customs, and the Security Intelligence Service, requesting that they release all information they hold on file on Vermunt.
*The open letter to the ministers of immigration and customs, with the list of signatories, is below.* ** *
3/19 Panorama Road
December 17, 2008
The Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman
Minister of Immigration
The Hon Maurice Williamson
Minister of Customs
We, the undersigned, are writing to protest
against the political harassment of
Annalucia Vermunt by officials at Auckland and Christchurch international airports.
The latest incident occurred on November 17,
2008, at Auckland International
Vermunt represents the Young Socialists at the World
Democratic Youth (WFDY), and travels abroad regularly to attend the Federation's
meetings. She was the Communist League candidate for the Manukau East electorate
in the just-concluded parliamentary elections.
On November 17, Vermunt landed at Auckland
International Airport on an Emirates
flight from Sydney. Vermunt was detained by customs officials for questioning and advised that she was to be searched for illegal drugs. This included conducting a degrading strip search without her consent. No evidence of illegal drugs was found.
Vermunt was then interrogated about her political involvement in the World Federation of Democratic Youth. She voiced objections to being questioned.
Vermunt was detained for over four hours. Vermunt has been previously interrogated about her political views and activities by officials at Christchurch airport in 2005 and 2006.
Vermunt has participated in WFDY since 2001. She was the organiser of delegations from New Zealand to two WFDY-initiated World Festivals of Youth and Students, in Algeria in 2001, and Venezuela in 2005. Vermunt, who is Maori, also organised the indigenous peoples workshop at the World Festival in Algeria. Following that festival, Vermunt has helped initiate speaking tours of New Zealand by representatives of Polisario, the organisation leading the fight for self-determination for the peoples of Western Sahara.
Vermunt has been a candidate for the Communist
League in both parliamentary and
mayoral elections. As a candidate in this year's elections, she visited Ruatoki to take part in activities to commemorate the October 15, 2007 "anti-terror" raids and to extend support to those facing charges following the raids. Vermunt is a meat worker and an active union member on the job.
The questioning of Vermunt about her political activities on all three occasions make
it clear that this harassment has a political motivation. This is a violation of her rights as a citizen.
We request that the Ministers give an undertaking that officers of their departments will not carry out such political harassment against Vermunt in future.
Annalucia Vermunt, Communist League
The following people have endorsed this open letter:
92 meat workers at CRM Progressive, Auckland Meat Processors, and Wilson Hellaby in Otahuhu, Auckland. (encl. 7 pages)
8 clothing workers from Cambridge Clothing, Auckland. (encl. 1 page)
Name Designation or organisation
(for identification purposes only)
Annette Sykes Ngati Makino, Ngati Pikiao, Solicitor
Dr David V Williams Professor of Law, University of Auckland
Dr Jane Kelsey Professor of Law, University of Auckland
John Minto Spokesperson, Global Peace & Justice Auckland
Catherine Delahunty Green Party Member of Parliament
Helen Te Hira Runanga, NZ Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi
Hon. Laila Harré National Secretary, National Distribution Union
Robert Reid President, National Distribution Union
John Ryall National Secretary, Service and Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota
Matt McCarten National Secretary, Unite Union
Mike Treen National Director, Unite Union
Patricia Olive Corowa Australian South Sea Islanders United Council, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Aboriginal Rights Coalition, Redfern, Australia
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Aotearoa Section
Pauline Tangiora Kuia, Rongomaiwahine
Associate Professor David Robie Pacific Media Centre
Jeff Sluka Associate Professor, Social Anthropology, Massey University
Professor Pamela Gerrish Nunn University of Canterbury
M. Sweeney Senior Official, Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union
Jill Ovens Regional Secretary, Service & Food Workers Union
Paul Watson Southern Region Secretary, National Distribution Union
Maxine Gay Textiles and Retail Secretary, National Distribution Union
Paul McAleer Assistant Branch Secretary, Sydney Branch, Maritime Union of Australia
Patrick Brown Communist League candidate for parliament 2008
Indonesia Human Rights Committee Maire Leadbeater and Cameron Walker
Fr Peter Murnane OP Dominican Friars
Esteban Espinoza Social Work Coordinator, The Salvation Army, Manukau.
Cr Paul Bruce Greater Wellington Green Regional Councillor
Callum Williamson Young Socialists
Dr Kate Dewes Peace Foundation Disarmament and Security Centre
Rob Green Peace Foundation Disarmament and Security Centre
Nick Kelly President, Tramways Union, Wellington Branch.
Omar Hamed Auckland University Students Association
Dr Gael Donald Cuba Friendship Society
Dr Helen Ritchie Researcher
Warren Brewer WISSE and Cuba Friendship Christchurch
Valerie Morse Anarchist and writer
Vinnie Molina President, ACFS Perth; Organiser, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union of Workers
Paul Piesse President, Alliance Party
Daphna Whitmore Workers Party
Grant Morgan Chair of RAM - Residents Action Movement
Oliver Woods RAM - Residents Action Movement
Joe Carolan Socialist Aotearoa
Helen Yensen Ret. teacher, Treaty Educator, Peace and Justice activist
Elliot Blade Auckland University Students Association
Lesley Osborne Vice President, Australia Western Sahara Association
Ahlene McKee Organiser, EPMU
Alasdair Macdonald Young Socialists, Australia
Alvin Livingstone Organiser, Service & Food Workers Union
Bob Aiken Communist League candidate in Canterbury mayoral election, Sydney
Bogdan Cakic Delegate, SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse
Brian Pinkstone Associate Professor at School of Economics and
Finance, University of Western Sydney
Brian van Dam
Brigid Mulrennan Teacher
Chris Holland Global Peace and Justice Auckland
Clair Trainor Solicitor
Clare Abaffy Solicitor
Damien Gilmour Delegate, UNITE Union
Dave Brown CWG member of Leninist-Trotskyist Fraction
Deepak Chandra SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse
Dereck Picking Organiser, National Distribution Union
Dion Martin National Distribution Union
Dr Greg Kleis Alliance spokesperson for the environment
Dr Philip Ferguson University of Canterbury
Dr Russell Johnson Lecturer, Computer Science, Massey University
Doug Cooper Member of Maritime Union of Australia
Elizabeth Hulm Secretary, Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, Perth, Australia
Elizabeth Wagner Poet
Eugen Lepou Delegate, SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse
Francisco Sagad SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse
G. Grigaliunas Kiwi Rail RCO
Geoffrey Radcliffe Teacher
Gerald Davidson Chairperson, Petone Community Board.
Gillian Magee Central Region Administrator, National Distribution Union
Hana el Ojeili
Helaina Coote Teacher
Helen Ayres Office manager
Helen Mulrennan Postal Workers Union of Aotearoa
Jared Phillips Workers Party
Jeanine Shiris Ring
Joanne Kuniansky Free the Cuban Five Committee, Sydney
Johanna Ruiterman Delegate, Postal Workers Union of Aotearoa
John B Turner
John Moore Workers Party
Joseph Rangi SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse
Karyn Amoore Member, EPMU & Unite Union, Global Peace & Justice Auckland
Kris Hansen Architect
Lee Walkington Local branch vice-president, Communications,
Electrical and Plumbing Union, Australia
Leslie & Marian Bravery
Linda Harris Communist League, Australia
Ma'anila Pepe Pita SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse
Malcolm McAllister Teacher
Manuele Lasalo Member of Australasian Meat Industry Employees' Union
Marcelo Espinoza NZNO delegate
Marjory Lewis Registered nurse
Mark Muller Workers Party
Matt Billington 5th Threat
Patrick Loughran Anti-Fascist Alliance
Ray Jackson Indigenous Justice Association, Australia
Rebecca Broad Workers Party
Robert Jones Writer
Roger Fowler RAM - Residents Action Movement
Ron Poulsen Aboriginal Rights Coalition, Sydney
Sheryl Cadman Regional Secretary, National Distribution Union
Simon Clarke Philosophy Department, University of Canterbury
Simon Oosterman Organiser, National Distribution Union
Siosifa Fifita SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse
Te Kanawa Harris SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse
Tony Gibson Delegate, Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, Pacific Rolling Mill, Fletcher Steel Limited
William Bradley ***