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Bring The Troops Home

PRESS STATEMENT

MANA Leader Hone Harawira

Tuesday 21st August

Bring The Troops Home


Today I spoke to the motion regarding those who have recently died in Afghanistan. I began with a mihi and ended in a similar vein.

My comments in English were as follows:

"Mr Speaker last week a number of Maori MPs from different political parties debated a range of issues on NATIVE AFFAIRS and naturally we all had different opinions on all of those issues - except one - what to do about our troops in Afghanistan and it was nice to hear that on one this issue we were all singing from the same song sheet – “Bring The Troops Home”.

I know that in this house it might seem inappropriate to be asking why we are at war when our troops are dying and I don't want people to think that asking questions here today in any way challenges the sacrifice that our troops have made, for some have made the ultimate sacrifice, but I also know that when we go to a tangi for one of our whanau who has died in a car accident, or from smoking, or from an act of violence, or from anything else, we openly ask ourselves why they died and whether or not there was anything we could have done to stop them dying.

Today is no different. Today people prepare for the return of their loved ones from Afghanistan. Today we all mourn those who have died, both Maori and non-Maori, and we all share in the grief of their whanau and their communities and today is the right time to ask questions about why they died and whether or not there was anything we could have done to stop them dying.

Questions that some of the families of those still in Afghanistan want answered now, like:

1. Why exactly is it that we are expected to "stay the course" when that "course" has changed from one of reconstruction to a more aggressive role?
2. Are our troops still involved in reconstruction, or has that changed to a more direct battle for daily survival?
3. Why are we hearing from independent sources that NZ vehicles are being stopped and searched by the Taliban in Bamyan Province and is that happening because neither NZ nor any of the coalition forces can any longer guarantee security there?
4. When the Prime Minister talks about the need to "restore security" is it because he has accepted what everybody already knows, that security is deteriorating in Afghanistan?
5. Is deteriorating security the reason why the Hungarians refuse to patrol at night and is that why NZ troops are being forced to take on a greater role there?
6. Does the government accept that the deteriorating security status in Bamyan and across the country mean that NZ need not commit itself to an American timetable of departure, and that we are entirely within our rights as a sovereign nation to ensure the safety and security of our own troops by withdrawing them from front line action?
7. When government says that they don't want it to look like the Taliban is forcing NZ out of Afghanistan, surely they are not saying that they are willing to sacrifice NZ troops to prove how staunch we are?
8. When the Minister of Defence confirmed last night that the reports that the Taliban are now specifically targeting NZ troops are true, why was he unable to say what additional security was being provided for those troops?
9. Can somebody in the government tell mothers and fathers at home why it is that government has cut back on the resources for our remaining troops when they are under greater attack now, than they have ever been?
10. Can somebody tell us why government has withdrawn the SAS at a time when their support is most desperately required by our own troops on the ground?

If the government's commitment to reducing the funding, reducing the resourcing, and reducing the support levels for our troops in Afghanistan is met by a declaration of specific targeting of our remaining troops by Taliban forces, then it is time to accept that the reduction in overall security for our forces on the ground presents our government with one of two simple choices- an immediate enhancement of the security for those on the ground until such time as they can be withdrawn as soon as possible or an immediate withdrawal of all NZ troops from Afghanistan.

ENDS

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