Monday, 2 May 2011

on security matters

i'm incredibly exhausted today. i had a board meeting after work for one of my NGO's & then went to vist a co-board member of another NGO who has just lost her husband. it was a sudden death, and of course she is shattered and yet remarkably resilient. she has good support around her, and of course i wish i could do more to help.

so yes, not really in the mood for getting into the main news of the day, being the killing of one osama bin laden. i'm not one of those who are celebrating, and not because i'm any kind of supporter for mr bin laden. rather, it saddens me that we should celebrate anyone's death. regardless of what it was, it is still a human life that was taken. taken without due process of law, without presentation of evidence in the public sphere, without any semblance of justice. when we dispense with justice, no matter how wicked we think the defendant is, we give up a core part of our humanity.

we are seeing an increasing tendency towards targetted assassinations, something that has been practiced by the israeli government for many years, and it isn't right. i know most people will write me off as a either a terrorist-sympathiser or a painty-waisted pinko communist, but i simply can not agree with summary executions of this nature. everyone knows it's not going to end terrorism nor make the world the slightest bit safer, and is nothing but an act of vengeance. so why all the celebrations?

but even if there were a capture and a trial, i expect it would be the farce that was saddam hussein's trial. a trial where key evidence that would be damning for certain governments is kept hidden, when justice isn't used to shine a light but to suppress the truth. a lose-lose situation for all concerned.

on saturday, i went to a security forum organised by the office of ethnic affairs, in conjunction with the federation of islamic associations of nz. it was attended by some pretty high level public servants from customs, immigration (border control), police, the nz defence force & the SIS.

first of all, kudos to these people for turning up and taking the heat. the questions and experiences that were put to them were forthright, the frustration and anger felt by the community was clearly visible. i think it was really important for these managers to understand the impact the behaviour of their staff has on communities. i can say that all of them were receptive, only one was overtly defensive, and they were really willing to engage and take action based on what they heard.

the SIS man faced questions regarding the recent sunday star times article regarding someone they had paid to infiltrate the muslim community. that they were as frustrated by that piece as our community were is pretty understandable. the community was absolutely clear in terms of our position: our mosques are open, we welcome anyone. if any agency wants to send people in under cover to gather intelligence information, then we have no problem with that. but we would have a major problem if said person was indulging in entrapment, to try to create a situation where none existed.

of course we were assured that no such entrapment had occurred, and that it was against the law. the thing is that a security strategy is going to be that much more successful if you have key community leaders and the majority of the community on-side. that way, if there is any suspicious stuff happening, community members are much more likely to report. going on overseas experiences in western countries, they do report when there is a good relationship with government agencies.

the department that got the most questioning was customs, and there is no doubt in my mind that there is some shoddy treatment happening by some customs staff. it was really useful to have discussion around the basis on which people are likely to be stopped, and i think everyone understands the need for stringent security measures. but no-one accepts that people who are detained at the airport should be treated rudely, especially when there is no evidence of wrong-doing.

all in all, i think it was an extremely useful session. i can imagine how gruelling it must be for the public servants in the hot seat, but they not only sat there and responded reasonably, they also stayed back and talked to indivduals after the meeting was over. full marks to OEA for their part in organising this event. from their responses to various questions, ours was not the only community they have been to, as they assured us that they have faced similar questions from other communities.

1 comment:

Deborah said...

I can't bring myself to rejoice in Bin Laden's death either, anjum, and I felt ill when I listened to some of the gloating on the radio. I hold no brief for him, and I think that he is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Even so, rejoicing at his killing is not right.

Mind you, I oppose the death penalty, so I don't think I would ever be happy with his execution, even consequent on a rigorous court process.