KAPITI PEOPLE JOIN DEMO DEFYING THE ARMS RACE
By Dr Viola Palmer
Several Kapiti people, including me, joined the protest against the Weapons Expo in Wellington earlier this week.
Each year the NZ Defence Industry Association (DIA) holds a trade exhibition that they call a ‘Forum’. Each year peace people protest against it, holding up the proceedings at times.
This year was no exception. Peace Action Wellington, together with other peace groups, mounted a determined well-planned effort to obstruct the proceedings. By 6.30am on October 10, peace activists were blocking every entry into the Westpac Stadium, site of the Forum.
The blockade continued, with Forum delegates from around the world stuck in their hotels until late morning. Then Police intervened. 57 of them lined up to shelter Forum participants from the peace activists and give entry to the Stadium. Violent scuffles ensued with about 10 activists arrested.
‘We are disturbing the war’
What was my role in all this? The afternoon before the Forum I joined an interdenominational vigil organised by Wellington Quakers outside the Railway Station. We passed out leaflets providing information to help the public understand the reason for the protest. At 8am the next day I joined the peace activists at the Stadium. My role was minor, holding up a banner for passing drivers to see. My intention was to remain non-violent.
One banner read “We are not disturbing the peace, We are disturbing the war”
The Forum is a weapons exhibition involving companies such as Serco and Lockheed Martin makers of nuclear weapons, attack aircraft and all other gear needed for
note3 (1) war. 50 calibre sniper rifles, pistols, and computer systems for artillery and mortars as well as clothing and non-combat gear were being peddled. No doubt sales of other weapons were concluded. Companies will have been holding out their hands for our recently announced $20 billion additional 15 year military expenditure.
The DIA like to portray this event as a harmless networking platform for defence and security agencies. Trade in auxiliary military and intelligence equipment is required to ‘keep us safe’ as chairman Andrew Ford said. Safe from what ? Invasion or terrorism ? It is ironic that, apart from the land wars, all NZ military action has been off shore.
I’d feel safer outside the Western Alliance
Many people, like me would feel safer if NZ was not latched into the Western alliance adding to military devastation of other countries. The more people are killed and injured, the greater the likelihood of their countrymen being radicalised into becoming terrorists.
Our taxes which are spent on defence (including corporate welfare for military and weapons-related production and export) would be better spent on health, education, housing and the environment. NZ used to be a world leader in human well-being.
Considering the fear generated by the conflict between Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, it is obvious that weapons do not lead to security. The more weapons there are, the likelier it becomes that they will be used. This has been the nub of the protest.
The Quakers’ creed
On the moral side, I consider it utterly wrong to kill other human beings. As the Quaker Yearly Meeting states:
“Quakers totally oppose all war, preparation for war, all use of weapons and coercion by force, and all military alliances; no end could ever justify such means.”
Did the peace protest achieve its aim to shut down the Forum? It prevented delegates meeting for a few hours. It raised public awareness that NZ is playing its part in the world’s killing machine. It reminded us that arms manufacturers are profiting by preying on our fears.