On Monday night news broke that a boat of asylum seekers supposedly destined for New Zealand had been detained in Indonesian waters. Immediately the NZ Prime Minister, John Key, came out with a hard-line ‘we won’t take illegal boat people’ stance. Since then the continuing news stories on both sides of the Tasman has left me convinced that the majority of this story is spin and the group of asylum seekers currently being used as political prawns by both politicians and the media.
Over the last week I have been collecting some of the news stories to piece together the bigger picture, starting with Tuesday:
‘No evidence’ asylum seekers heading to NZ (stuff.co.nz)
New Zealand Immigration Minister Jonathon Coleman said there was “no concrete evidence” that the Sri Lankan people were actually trying to reach New Zealand.
“When they had a look at the boat, there was no evidence that they were truly intending to come here, so I’m sure there is a range of things that the people on that boat are trying to do to leverage their position,” Coleman said.
“While there is obviously the capacity for them to come to New Zealand, we feel in this case it was pretty unlikely that that was their intended destination.”
“The reality is that you would expect there to be things like maps on board, charts that would indicate that that was their true destination and I haven’t had any information that any of that material has been found on that boat.”
Asked why they had been holding signs indicating they wanted to come to New Zealand, Coleman said: “Obviously, if they could create a wave of political pressure to come here, I’m sure they would be pretty keen to get to somewhere but look, they won’t be coming to New Zealand.”
So on Monday night we had Key telling us these people were definitely coming, however, on Tuesday morning we have the immigration minister telling us they weren’t. What is most interesting is the last line where Coleman even suggests these people were set up to create a political storm.
Of course Key wasn’t happy about his hard-line stance being undermined by the truth so he came out with this gem (via nzherald on Wednesday):
“He hasn’t had an intelligence briefing, he’s had a briefing from his officials, there’s a difference.”
One wonders if his intelligence briefing was run by his political and media advisors… anyway… this hardline approach by Key then saw all the vested interest groups and individuals (Amnesty International, Kiwiblog, Helen Clark, etc) come out to add their 2c into the debate.
The most interesting of these comments came from the United Sri Lanka Association who claimed Sri Lanka was “as peaceful as Wellington” and “There’s no violence there right now, the violence there caused by Tamil terrorism has been quelled, it’s been put to rest two years ago.”
Well if this was the case then you would expect Sri Lanka to be somewhere near NZ in the Global Peace Index right? Last year NZ ranked 2nd most peaceful country in the world, Sri Lanka ranked 126th, and as for their argument it has improved, sure the year before they ranked 133rd, but the year before that they ranked 125th so their peace ranking isn’t improving, and it is certainly nowhere near the same as NZ.
Also by this time the Australian media commentators had picked up on the NZ asylum boat story claiming it as proof that the Gillard Government’s Malaysia Solution was working. The best of these stories was the SMH with “Message received: asylum seekers give Australia a wide berth” which claimed that the boat supposedly headed to NZ may have also tried to go to Canada!
Then yesterday the nzherald had an article about how a person who came from the Tampa has been caught up in a car rebirthing ring. A story that was worded in such a way that it clearly made out that this guy was bad because of the country he had came from – not because bad apples can occur in any country or situation.
And now a week after the story first broke, the Sunday Star Times is claiming they have got a reporter onboard and reporting there is a stalemate going on about where these people should go… the saga continues…
Right now there is a conspiracy filled cynic in me saying the Nats and the media is feeding us bullshit. Yes there is a refugee boat in Indonesia, yes these people are in need – and we should help them!
But instead there is a whole lot of media and political spin going on to make it look like these people are evil zombies out to destroy everything we hold dear. Of course that is crap, but if you read enough stories about how these people will steal your cars, are secretly violent terrorists, and are so lazy they will use all your taxpayers’ dollars on welfare you’ll believe it right?