Labour on Burma

Labour seem to have multiple spokespersons and policies on engagement with Burma.

The Dom Post reports:

Three government officials from Myanmar’s repressive military regime are studying English in New Zealand, funded by the taxpayer.

Why, we wonder?

Mr McCully said he had allowed the officials to study here after a of Myanmar’s involvement in the English Language Training for Officials scheme. That was in line with an international move – led by President Barack Obama – to increase engagement with in preparation for what were hoped to be democratic elections this year. …

In 2008, Mr McCully – then in opposition – criticised Labour for allowing government-owned company Kordia, formerly BCL, to work in a joint venture doing engineering work on cellphone tower installations in Myanmar. He called the government the “Butchers of Burma”. Asked to justify his apparent change of heart, Mr McCully would only say it was “consistent with the international community”.

He said the three studying in New Zealand worked in the civil service in Myanmar. “We don’t do it for people who hold controversial roles.”

Okay – makes sense.  So what does Labour say on it. First their foreign spokesperson:

Labour foreign spokesman Chris Carter said it was important to show the officials how democracy should work. “It’s about political education in a way.”

Goodness I am agreeing with Chris. Training up civil servants on how to do a good job, seems worthwhile.

But Labour MP Maryan Street disagrees:

Burma Cross-Party Parliamentary Group chairwoman Maryan Street, a Labour MP, said: “We should not be doing anything to prop up that administration.”

She said the officials – studying in Wellington, Napier, and Nelson – could spy on refugees in this country, leading to possible persecution of families in Burma.

“This is not the same as providing humanitarian support and assistance and training for people who are going back to help develop their country.”

So who speaks for Labour on this issue, and what is their policy?

Finally I wonder if this is a new initiative:

Mr McCully said each participant in the English Language Training for Officials scheme cost about $35,000 to educate over six months – paid for by the New Zealand Government. About 35 officials had visited from since 1998.

Guess not.

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