Gordon Campbell on UN hypocrisy towards Richard Prosser   5 Mar 2013


Gordon Campbell on the UN’s hypocrisy towards Richard Prosser

So the United Nations has reprimanded Richard Prosser for his “Wogistan” comments.

The United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination described Prosser's comments as "inflammatory" and urged a stronger line from the Government.

"The committee regrets the recent inflammatory remarks by a member of parliament vilifying persons from Central Asia or the Middle East based on their skin colour and country of origin as well as their religion," it said in a newly published report on New Zealand's record on racial discrimination.

All well and good. Yet offhand, its hard to think of anything more likely to create sympathy for the New Zealand First MP. That’s because the UN has such a chequered record on human rights. In the latest example, the UN has just ruled itself immune from any claim for compensation for the way one of the ‘peacekeeping’ teams that it sent to Haiti (after the recent earthquake) then proceeded to carelessly contaminate a major river with its own faecal wastes, thereby triggering a cholera epidemic that has so far killed over 8,000 Haitians.

As the Economist magazine recently pointed out, if a business tipped industrial waste into a river in the United States, you could hope at least to sue them for negligence. Not so with the United Nations. Although 5,000 Haitians have tried to sue the UN for its lethal negligence, the UN has ruled itself above all that:

The UN said that no action against it was possible. In a terse statement, the office of Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, declared the claims “not receivable” because of the organisation’s privileges and immunities. Apparently, there is no legal mechanism for redress against the UN, whern it violates human rights.

Immunity protects it from most courts. Although its agreement with Haiti provides for a claims commission to hear grievances, that commission has never been set up. So the lawyers for the cholera claimants brought their petition directly to the secretary-general. They demanded that the UN pay damages, accept responsibility, set up the claims commission and build the sewage systems that Haiti lacks.

Although the UN’s legal office took 15 months to declare itself beyond the reach of the claims, it offered little explanation. Its letter to the claimants’ lawyers said “consideration of these claims would necessarily involve a review of political and policy matters.” So is dumping faeces in rivers UN policy? The answer seems to be, as one of the claimants’ lawyers put it: “We make the rules, we interpret them, we enforce them, and therefore, whatever we say is right.”.

On that basis, Richard Prosser should get on pretty well with Ban Ki Moon, next time they’re out and about together in Wogistan.

Using Gold to Sell the Silver

Whenever the government wants to spend money on itself or its investor friends, all that talk about the need for austerity flies right out the window. Past example: bailing out South Canterbury Finance speculators. Latest example: the financially foolhardy partial asset sales programme. Apparently there will now be a million dollar advertising campaign piled on top of the tens of millions already spent on consultancy fees etc… in order to sell the government’s plan to unload Mighty River Power.

"Tomorrow will also see the start of a substantial advertising and communications campaign covering television, print and online media which will raise awareness of the initial public offer," said [Finance Minister Bill] English.

Right. So we need to spend a million dollars to whip up public enthusiasm for a partial sale that will lose money (compared to the cost of borrowing the same amounts and retaining the entire revenue stream). The partial selldown is opposed by most of the public, and only a relatively few and relatively affluent New Zealanders stand to profit from the share float, eventually at everyone else’s expense:

Key this afternoon said the share sale would be a "highly political process" and his Government intended keeping its promises about ensuring a high level of New Zealand ownership.

Earth to Key: there’s an even higher level of New Zealand ownership right now. What Key and English are about to do will actually reduce ownership by the New Zealand public, and render most of them vulnerable to price gouging on their power bills. Key is right on one point though. It is a “highly political process.”


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