Protestors off the East Cape have been served with a notice stipulating that they must not come within a certain distance of the Petrobras ship. As I said yesterday, this is more than outrageous. The threat of criminal sanction is very, very serious. Criminal sanction is the ultimate in moral judgement and legal punishment. It is beyond comprehension that the government is willing to invoke the criminal law in a case where no tangible harm exists, where the behaviour is non-threatening and where criminal sanction will effectively inhibit socially acceptable, and arguably desirable, behaviour. But most importantly there is a reasonable alternative to criminal sanction – working with the protestors. To be fair there probably is no common ground to be found and Te Whanau a Apanui/Greenpeace will not compromise, but the government should have, at the very least, tried before sending in the guns. The government has jumped ahead and invoked what should have been an option of last resort.
This is Greenpeace after all. A group of pacifists, environmentalists and other anti-violence types. The same could be said of Te Whanau a Apanui – they are the kaitiaki (custodian), not a taua (war party).
There is one positive so far though. The Maori Party has finally come out in support. Credit to Te Ururoa Flavell (better late than never). However, I think he did undermine his point somewhat when comparing the government’s actions to Gaddafi. Hyperbole is effective when used well, but I think he may have taken the idea of exaggeration for effect a wee bit far. However, the point behind the rhetoric was strong and obvious.
This issue is only going to get messier. I am in two minds as to whether the government can win. The rangatiratanga of Te Whanau a Apanui will not stand against the might of the New Zealand state and win, but with the help of iwi katoa, politicians and the public the government must back down.