I’ve just got back from my annual trip Downunder, visiting family in New Zealand and Australia. I can tell you I’m proud of the country of my birth. I can’t think of another country in the world I would rather have grown up in. At the same time, I’m equally sure that I wouldn’t be happy living in New Zealand now.
I know there’s no perfect country. Everywhere has its plusses and minuses, Turkey as much as anywhere else – but at least here I can view the situation with a certain objective detachment. Back in New Zealand, there were times when I just wanted to cry, seeing what they were doing to my beautiful homeland.
Turkey’s government has come in for a good deal of stick in the international media over its treatment of dissenters – and I’m sure its political opponents have some valid points to make about curtailment of their inalienable rights to criticize with impunity. Nevertheless, at least they have to actually do something before their government unleashes its law enforcement officers to blast them with water cannon or incapacitate them with pepper spray.
In New Zealand, on the contrary, it seems that the government these days prefers pre-emptive action, that is, getting to potential protesters before they have actually got around to doing anything at all.
I’ve been hearing about TPP for some time now, and I can tell you the initials stand for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an innocuous-sounding agreement involving twelve Pacific rim countries focusing on productivity and economic growth. The problem seems to be that negotiations at inter-governmental level have taken place amid great secrecy, but there have been disquieting leaks suggesting that, for instance, multi-national corporations will be empowered to sue national governments for infringing their lawful right to make obscene profits without let or hindrance.
Naturally there are some citizens in New Zealand holding reservations about the desirability of such measures, who wish to exercise their democratic right to protest and generate pubic debate before the agreement is signed into binding law. And an article published in The New Zealand Herald on January 28 informed me that police have been knocking on the doors of ‘known activists’ days ahead of the planned protests in what can only be seen as a concerted move to intimidate and deter those citizens from exercising that right:
“Police are checking in on “known activists” around the country ahead of TPP protests later this week.
Scout Barbour-Evans, a Dunedin transgender activist who goes by the gender-neutral pronoun “they”, said an officer knocked on their door about 10 this morning. The officer wanted to know what the plans were for anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership action in Dunedin, Scout said.
Scout compared the situation to the Springbok tour, saying the increased surveillance feels akin to 1981, particularly following the presence of armed police at Prime Minister John Key’s State of the Nation speech in Auckland yesterday.
Prominent anti-TPP protestor Professor Jane Kelsey said such monitoring of critics to the controversial agreement was “entirely predictable” behaviour from the Government, and shows the “disrespect the Government has had throughout to people’s right to voice their dissent about this negotiation and this agreement”.
“This is perfectly consistent with their attempts to shut down democratic engagement with, almost anything, but certainly with the TPPA.”