How organized crime is exploiting South Pacific nations

New Zealanders think of the South Pacific as their backyard. In our thousands we go to Fiji, Rarotonga, Samoa and Tonga each year. Still more head for Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, whilst others head for Tahiti. The culture they say is easy going, the weather great (except in the cyclone season)and the beaches are magnificent.

But against this backdrop, there are some quite disturbing aspects to law and order in these nations – or rather a lack of law and order. Many might remember the Solomon Islands intervention last decade, where the archipelago southeast of Papua New Guinea was subject to lawlessness and roving gangs. New Zealand and Australia put together a task force of police units to tackle the core problems before the nation became a failed state.

The Solomon Islands case is just one example from a region where organized crime takes on many forms and is growing both in sophistication and scale. A toxic combination of money laundering, drugs, shell businesses among other crime types means that the south Pacific is not the paradise portrayed in the media.

The Governments of these nations are among the weakest in the world when it comes to dealing with organized crime. Part of the problem is that their population base is small, meaning the available tax paying base to fund law enforcement is tiny. Fiji has a population of 800,000 people, a bit more than half the size of Auckland. Samoa has a population of around 190,000 or about half the size of Christchurch, whilst Tonga’s population is about 105,000.

Another part of the problem is a distinct lack of transparency in the Governments and law enforcement agencies of these nations. New Zealand might be in the top five most transparent nations according to Transparency International, but Kiribati, Tonga and the Solomon Islands perform quite poorly. The latter is ruled by an absolute monarch, who also controls the treasury and the judiciary in what is the only remaining absolute monarchy on the planet. It was highlighted brutally in 2006 by violent riots with looting and arson burning down the central business district of Nukualofa in protest at the lack of democracy in the country.

Outside influences such as China do not help either. Whilst the Chinese offer to develop infrastructure and provide jobs, the companies that do the work are all based in China and nearly all of the profits made from the projects carried out go back there. The details of the deals done between politicians and company executives are rarely made public. Thus little is known about what international and local laws might have been breached in the deals.

So, what could New Zealand do to assist South Pacific Island nations in dealing with organized crime? Find out in the next article.


Defence of freedom of speech makes for strange bedfellows

Dame Susan Devoy’s call in her capacity as Human Rights Commissioner and the Police calling for hate laws to be introduced have resulted in a broad coalition of prominent New Zealanders to defend the right to freedom of speech. The common freedom, which is provided for in Section 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been unnecessarily called into question of late as a result of unfortunate actions.

This defence, credible as it is, has made for some rather strange bedfellows. Politicians from across the political divide, past and present have risen to the defence of freedom of speech. When would you have otherwise expected to see Dame Tariana Turia, Dr Don Brash, Sir Geoffrey Palmer all singing from the same song sheet at the same time?

This in itself is a good thing. It acknowledges that across the board, there are people who will stand up for the right to freedom of speech.

Of course it should be noted that freedom of speech does not give the right to commit hate speech, which is something that Australia has been wrangling over. It does not give one the right to degrade or humiliate a gender, a race, nationality or other common denominator using speech.

So, I welcome the letter from these 27 different New Zealanders and note the considerable diversity of their backgrounds. For to me, it means that irrespective of ones background there is common acknowledgement that freedom of speech is a truly inalienable right. Irrespective of whether one is from China or Samoa, the United States or Nigeria all human beings have a right to freedom of speech.

As for Dame Susan, I wonder how much time she spent looking at overseas examples of where freedom of speech has come into conflict because of concerns that it is sanctioning hate speech. If she had, it might have occurred to her that the countries where hate laws exist have much deeper societal issues that need addressing, including, but not limited to institutionalized hate.

The republic debate in New Zealand

When I was at high school I was asked to do an essay for homework one night to prove my writing skill in Year 12 English. I was given a range of essay subjects to choose from. Not being terribly excited by any of the others, I decided to give one about whether New Zealand should become a republic a go. My mark if I recall correctly was not flash, but not terrible either (about 60%). Reading the teachers comments, I noticed he wanted me to explore more the reasoning around my decision. Although the mark was not as high as I had hoped for, it did set in motion my interest in New Zealand eventually becoming a republic.

So, why a republic?

In 1995 when New Zealand won the America’s Cup, a major feat for a little nation then with no more than 3.5 million people, I was a Year 10 student in High School. I had not yet really developed the appreciation I have today for the ins and outs of political governance systems, but I was not really impressed by the idea of an old lady 12,000 miles away ruling my nation, one that she rarely visits. Although my thoughts have definitely matured on the subject of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II from those rather primitive ones of 1995, the basics remain the same.

It seemed odd then and still seems odd to me today that a nation as stable and able as New Zealand should need a Head State in the form of a Monarch nearly 20,000 kilometres away. We have developed into a nation that is the envy of many other countries around the world: stable, democratic and respectful of diversity. Although the Monarchists correctly say we are a peaceful nation, it stems in large part from addressing the grievances raised by Maori. It stems from surviving two big wars that gave us an appreciation for democratic rights, and it stems from understanding as a nation of immigrants that to reasonably comment on the origin of others, we must respect those who move here.

People worry that if New Zealand becomes a republic it would interfere with the Treaty of Waitangi and its applications. It would not. The new President and the Government would still have the same responsibilities. It  is interesting to note a Bill of Parliament by former Green Party M.P. Keith Locke showed a way to negate any such interference by explicitly stating the responsibilities of the President. Although Mr Locke retired from Parliament some time ago, and the Bill never passed, it demonstrates that consideration has been given to this subject.

People worry that New Zealand would have to leave the Commonwealth if it became a Republic. Not so. India, Pakistan, Fiji, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal among others are all Republics and they are still part of the Commonwealth. Jamaica is considering becoming a Republic.

Australia is known to have a strong republican movement, but a referendum in the 1990’s that asked Australians whether or not they wanted to become a Republic did not give them the opportunity to determine whether or not they wanted a Parliamentary or publicly elected head of state. The referendum was therefore rejected. However many believe it is just really a matter of time before another referendum is held, and that provided the referendum does not have the mistakes of the previous referendum, would result in a Republic of Australia.

Republics are portrayed as being more unstable nations than those that are Monarchs. This is not altogether true. In fact Tonga, which was until it suffered severe riots in Nuku’alofa in 2006, was ruled as an absolute monarchy. The riots precipitated constitutional reform that increased the democratic power of the population. Substantial corruption existed and still exists in the Kingdom where a Royal funeral takes up a significant portion of the nation’s annual G.D.P.; where the national airline is owned by the head of state and the aircraft are sometimes not appropriately warranted or have safety issues.

The case for and against a republic is laid out in the New Zealand Republic Handbook (Holden L.J., 2009, pp18-25 and  pp26-35 respectively).



Armed offences spiralling out of control: A snap shot

Rather than write an article, I have decided to show a snap shot of armed offences that have occurred in New Zealand in the last few months. The number, the boldness of the offences, the ages of the offenders and their distribution across the country shows that no part seems to be spared. All of the offences mentioned below have happened since 01 January 2017.

There have also been a spate of dairy robberies in south Auckland.

What do you think needs to happen to offenders who are caught? I would like to see several things happen with convicted offenders:

  • Seize their passports, as why would other countries want convicted violent offenders from another nation visiting them?
  • Ask victims what they would like to see the offenders do if restorative justice is not an option
  • Assets confiscated in order to pay for damages if financial means to pay up does not exist

Given the lack of action by the Government in dealing with this spiralling violence the state of violent crime in New Zealand may become an election issue. This becomes particularly concerning with the increasing costs of cigarettes and other tobacco products, as well as drugs fuelling crime. Frustrated and fearful business owners trying to ensure that they are able to cope in the event of an attack on them, need to know that someone will help them.

Beware the lone wolves of terrorism


That famous message to the people of Britain as they endured night after night of the Luftwaffe bombing their houses into the ground reassured many a Briton during the Blitz. It resonated again on 7 July 2005 in the London underground and bus attacks by al-Qaida inspired militants. And no doubt again as Briton deals with the aftermath of another terrorist attack, it shall be on peoples minds yet again.

As we remember the victims of the 22 March 2017 terrorist attack outside Parliament in London, British authorities will be beginning to piece together how the lone attacker in the latest attack came to be a terrorist. They will be looking to see whether he has connections to any radical groups, his background and political views. They will be wanting to hear from his family, friends and others who knew him.

People will be understandably angry and upset that this happened in their home country. They will be demanding to know what can be done and will be done to avoid it happening again in the future. I hope that they are channeling their inner anger towards remembering Britain is a democracy and that there is no winners from clamping down on liberties, except the very terrorists the country claims to be fighting. The country that stood bravely with her colonies against the force of the German war machine in the early 1940’s before America and Russia came on board has been through worse and survived.

It shall survive this too.

But when the mourning ends and people start to move on, Britain will need to remember that this was a lone wolf type attack. It was the act of a single person acting on – so far as one can currently tell – their own accord. It was not by a group or large well funded organization such as Islamic State, even if they do approve of the attack. The attacker was armed with a knife. Notably he did not appear to have guns or explosive devices, which would have caused many more deaths, and raised questions about external funding, logistics and material support. Nor was the type of attack carried out original, with several such incidents involving vehicles being deliberately driven into crowds having occurred in other countries, namely France and Germany in 2016.

The lone wolf attacker is, in many ways more dangerous, as they cannot be easily spotted. They answer to no one – whereas a sleeper cell is usually connected in some way to a larger group or other cells, thus implying a chain of command exists. The same person is more mobile. They can go where they want, and might have used their own funds to buy what they needed to carry out the attack. Unless there were suspect purchases on credit card or whatever the British equivalent of an EFTPOS card is, finding the supplier or proving that those materials might have been used, is very difficult.

It also raises a whole lot of questions about far one should go – if at all – in curbing civil liberties. Does a state of emergency get declared? Do new rules about what can be done and not done in certain places get introduced? Do we have metal detectors at all major public places? As problematic as these questions are, I would be willing to bet they will be bouncing around in the heads of law makers and debating chambers across Britain in the coming days and weeks.

Are we going to stop all lone men and women from driving cars near the British Parliament just because a lunatic, who was apparently born in Britain went mad with a knife and hurt a whole lot of people? Not necessarily, but Britain should