10 February 2014

The Syrian conflict and the threat to rule of law in New Zealand.

Under the "rule of law" the institutions of state are subject to the law and have minimal discretion in the exercise of their powers.    Under the "rule of power"  the law is perceived as a mere instrument of state power, and the state assigns itself wide discretionary powers.   In giving itself the right to withdraw the passports of New Zealand citizens on suspicion, and without recourse to legal process, thus restricting the freedom of movement of New Zealand citizens, the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has signalled that the regime is moving from the "rule of law" to the "rule of power", where fundamental rights, such as freedom of movement  may be granted or withdrawn at the discretion of  institutions of state - in the present case, the security-intelligence service.  

Ali Aqil of Syrian Solidarity New Zealand has pointed out that the New Zealand Prime Minister's power to arbitrarily revoke the passports of New Zealand citizens is used in discriminatory fashion.   As Aqil has noted, New Zealanders have served as soldiers of fortune with "private contractors" and with British, United States, Israeli, Australian and of course New Zealand forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the Middle East with no consequences for their rights as New Zealand citizens.   Some of those New Zealanders of European descent who have served with foreign forces in overseas conflicts have had close personal connections to government ministers, and have received public acclaim for their foreign service.   So on what basis does John Key differentiate between those who choose to serve in Syria, and those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine?   Prime Minister Key is comfortable in the knowledge that previous New Zealand fighters have been dedicated to maintaining Anglo-Saxon hegemony over the nations of the Middle East and Central Asia, but fears that those who wish to fight in Syria will be committed to the liberation of the Arab peoples from European rule, and will return home with a heightened awareness of social justice and injustice.  The discriminatory response of the New Zealand state is thus revealing of its innate antipathy to human emancipation at home or abroad.

The New Zealand media, to its credit, has publicised Aqil's criticisms, but in keeping with its own ideological bias has focussed upon the allegation that the Prime Minister's decisions reveal a racial bias. There is almost certainly some substance to that allegation, but it is not the main point at issue.   The real cause for concern is that an agency of the state - the Security Intelligence Service through its Minister, John Key - has acquired the legal power to strip individual New Zealand citizens of their right to travel, without benefit of any legal process or means of redress.

A law which prohibited all New Zealanders from engaging in overseas conflicts or serving in foreign forces might run counter to some humanitarian impulses (for example during the nineteen-thirties New Zealand volunteers fought in the Spanish Civil War in an effort to protect the Spanish government and people from a fascist military coup led by General Francisco Franco)  but it would be consistent with the rule of law.  Personally, I believe that such a law should become a fundamental element of the Constitution of the Confederation of Peoples of Aotearoa.   However noble (or ignoble) the motives may have been, little good has come from New Zealanders' frequent involvement in the civil or foreign conflicts of other nationsm and New Zealanders would do well to keep their noses out of the Syrian civil war.

But New Zealanders should not allow the Syrian war to become the pretext under which their own rights and freedoms are to be trampled down by the forces of the state.  As people of Aotearoa we can best serve the interests of the people of Syria and humanity at large by defending our own threatened or neglected rights and freedoms here at home.  Ultimately, those rights and freedoms can only be secured through the overthrow of the monarchist regime which is intrinisically hostile to the rule of law by virtue of being a personality based institution lacking any process of political accountability.  That, the political destruction of the Realm of New Zealand, is the end to which our people's efforts should be directed.

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