Refusal to hold Hit and Run inquiry is patronising: Dr Kennedy Graham

07/04/2017

This week the Prime Minister refused to hold an inquiry into the allegations surrounding activities by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) in Afghanistan in 2010. The Green Party remains convinced that an inquiry is absolutely necessary, and that it is Parliament's role to begin such a process.

Let us first reflect on the reason New Zealand went to Afghanistan in the first place. We went on the premise, and the promise, that our role was to protect democracy and uphold human rights. That is what our citizens were told.

We all benefit from the NZDF's good reputation internationally, and we are all proud of this reputation. If serious allegations like these go unaddressed, how can New Zealanders have confidence in ourselves? How can the nations that we work with have confidence in us?

Deaths of civilians in wartime are not an inevitability to be met with a shrug. Whether they occurred in one village or its neighbour, they occurred during a mission in which our troops were involved. New Zealanders are not above the law.

We know the following. There was a combat mission involving the NZDF. Investigative journalists claim six civilians were killed. Our Defence Force claims that New Zealanders did not kill civilians.

The Prime Minister says that New Zealanders acted consistently with the rules of engagement, and that the claim of the journalists is inaccurate. He bases that on an assurance from the NZDF, the party involved, and on a partial viewing of the relevant video.

The Prime Minister is saying to the people of New Zealand that he knows more of the facts, has greater insight, and can therefore make a better judgement than the rest of Parliament, and therefore the people of this country.

But those days are past. This is a defining moment. The people of New Zealand are no longer subjects. The Prime Minister does not rule – including on issues of national security.

What is New Zealand to do in this situation? The Parliament, the people, do not know the ultimate facts surrounding the Afghanistan mission. But Parliament knows enough to make a judgement that, in the 21st century, it has a political obligation to the people it represents to begin an independent commission of inquiry under the Inquiries Act of 2013.

We should be laying down a precedent, today. The precedent would be that Parliament have the right to require an inquiry into credible, albeit unproven, allegations concerning the actions of our armed forces overseas.

The purpose of that investigation would be to reassure the public that the very values of this country - for which our men and women serve overseas and risk their lives - are not undermined by the patronising insinuation that Government organisations are above the law.

This should be the right of the New Zealand Parliament. And the Executive should not have the right to refuse. 

Dr Kennedy Graham MP is the Green Party's global affairs spokesperson