Kelsey accuses PM Key of ‘orchestrated move’ to make TPPA debate a security issue

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New Zealand Police.

In a statement issued Thursday evening, law professor and TPP expert Jane Kelsey has accused the Prime Minister of orchestrating a move by Police and security agencies to stile public debate and opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership.

The statement titled ‘Desperate Key govt trying to redefine TPPA as law and order issue’ also suggests that the Prime Minister is attempting to swing public opinion in his government’s favour.

The statement reads:

‘News that police have been visiting opponents of the TPPA ahead of next week’s signing is the latest step in an orchestrated move by the Prime Minister to try to redefine the signing of the hugely unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) as a law and order issue’, said long-time TPPA critic Professor Jane Kelsey.

‘Presumably the National Party’s polling shows they can claw back some of their support base if they can demonise the opposition to the TPPA and divert attention from the substantive issues of affordable medicines, privileged rights for foreign investors, democracy and sovereignty.’

Professor Kelsey observed the parallels to Muldoon’s strategy during the 1981 Springbok tour. ‘The choice of Sky City as the venue was the first step. Then the media ran a conveniently planted story that police were doing riot training using the TPPA signing as their scenario. Now we have police visits to people labelled as anti-TPPA activists. By the time of the signing, National will hope the law and order threat is firmly implanted in people’s minds, even if nothing happens.’

‘I wouldn’t be surprised if government claims it has to relocate the signing somewhere more secure because of the threat to visiting ministers – I’ve already heard rumours of an alternative venue that may actually be the government’s preferred option,’ Kelsey said. 

‘Clearly, the government has been damaged by the fact that tens of thousands of ordinary Kiwis have turned out across the country to protest against the secretive negotiations. Instead of responding to citizens’ concerns through a democratic process, the government has resorted to a classic and not very sophisticated law and order beat up that aims to intimidate and further suppress democratic dissent.’

Professor Kelsey predicts that, ‘just as the previous insults haven’t worked, this won’t work either’.

The statement followed news reports that Police had begun visiting activists and opponents of the TPPA. Fairfax’s Stuff website reported:

Scout Barbour Evans was visited by two police officers on Thursday morning, “asking me what I’ll be doing for the TPPA events”.

The officers said they were following a national directive and were “visiting all known activists in the country”.

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said in the Fairfax report:

“Having police show up at your door to ask you what you plan on doing is chilling and the police know that” said Turei.

“It carries with it an implicit threat and New Zealanders have the right to speak out and have their voices heard. Being an activist isn’t a crime, being an activist is being passionate about something and last time I checked that wasn’t illegal.”

Commenting to the New Zealand Herald, Civil liberties lawyer Michael Bott said:

The police action would have a “chilling” effect on freedom of expression and the right to protest.

“These people haven’t committed any crime and yet the police are going to conduct a search or an interview, and there are legal concerns with that.”

Also commenting in the Herald, Labour Party police spokesman Stuart Nash said Police door-knocking is:

“Not the way we do things in this country”.

“My initial reaction is that it is a little heavy-handed. The protesters have a legal right to protest within the bounds of the law.

“During every single TPP rally, I can’t recall any instances where protesters have been violent or aggressive.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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