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Respect the legal process on arrests

7 November

Respect the legal process on arrests and trials

Progressive leader Jim Anderton says that people should respect the legal process that is underway, rather than making outrageous and alarmist comment over recent arrests on possible arms and/or terrorist charges.

“It is important for everyone in New Zealand to be constantly alert for the possibility of abuse of power – indeed our democracy works because of a high level of public accountability. But people devalue the language of protest and accountability by extremist statements, such as ‘New Zealand is a police state’ and alleging there are political prisoners” said Jim Anderton.

“There are places where suspects are beaten or killed by the police and military, where torture is common, and where there are no rights to free speech or fair trial – consider Zimbabwe for example. But to compare New Zealand with those situations, to piggy-back on that suffering, is sick.”

“New Zealand has a very high standing internationally for its respect for human rights – not perfect of course, and we remain determined to do better.

“But whilst extremist language might be ridiculous, we should not assume it is meaningless. For some, the rhetoric will encourage extremes. A ‘victim’ tone is provocatively divisive, suggesting “them or us”, and it invites escalation and revenge.

“As democrats and as citizens, we believe in reason and in channeling conflict and dispute within the political and legal system. Therefore we have a duty to speak out to protect those processes and to insist upon respect for them.

“One example is Hone Harawira’s statement in parliament comparing New Zealand to ‘jingoistic, acid-drenched, hate-filled, anti-Islamic, death to anyone from the Middle East, vitriolic, poisonous claptrap’.

“Mr Harawira might think this shows how staunch he is. He needs to take a serious look at the responsibilities he carries.

“These statements show contempt for the legal and political process and indeed for our democracy.

“Most people will simply laugh at him. But some may believe him, and the fire in some extremists may be stoked.

“We should all understand that in addition to free speech and accountability, democracy depends also on mutual respect amongst citizens, on respect for our institutions, and on seeing respect practised by leaders.

“It is time to step back from extremist political gaming in relation to these arrests and to show some respect for the legal process,” Jim Anderton said.

ENDS

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