Red Alert

Aung San Suu Kyi to NZ – was anybody listening?

Posted by on November 25th, 2012

What was Aung San Suu Kyi’s word to the west during her recent European tour? “Yes – we welcome foreign investment, but ethical investment and people-centred aid please.” Did John Key hear any of this before he swanned off for another photo opp?

His post-Burma visit interview with Audrey Young was a lesson in how to learn nothing from one of the world’s greatest and most principled democratic leaders. It was like watching a child trying to speak adult language. And as for the Boy’s Own Annual approach to Foreign Affairs –  of the East Asia Summit: “It was a pretty interesting meeting just generally….I know…all these guys. I’ve met them lots now” – one wonders what Key thinks he is there for. And did he not know how ASSK might react to the name Myanmar?

Key announced $7 million in aid to go to Burma – $1 million in humanitarian aid to Rakhine state and $6 million in agricultural reforms. I blogged positively on the fact that he announced aid at all. But Key’s and National’s obsession with Foreign Affairs being reduced to trade shone through his announcement as did his disregard for everything for which ASSK stands – democracy, poverty elimination, reliable and accessible health care, accountable structures, rule of law, credible governance, anti-corruption.

Contrast Key with Obama’s brave and principled leadership shown in his speech at the University of Yangon: “Above all, when your voices are heard in government, it’s far more likely that your basic needs will be met. And that’s why reform must reach the daily lives of those who are hungry and those who are ill, and those who live without electricity or water.”

$6 million in agricultural reform assistance is another way of saying how can the NZ government make life easy for our biggest company, Fonterra? Somewhere down the track, that may be an appropriate question. Right now, instead of the developed nations circling like vultures over the next and possibly last untapped market in the world, why aren’t we concentrating on what Burma needs in order to get its people back on their feet so they can trade their riches of oil, gas, gems such as rubies and other minerals, as well as their fertile land, on their own terms and for the benefit of their people?

What business needs to flourish is the rule of law, transparency, a lack of corruption and democratic accountability. US businesses are not lining up to flood into Burma yet because they know the banking system is embryonic and capricious (crisp US bills only please, no bank accounts for foreigners, cash only). Check out what US businesses are saying here.

But to get to that stage, Burma will need health care and education. Our UnionAID programme training young Burmese leaders ($175,000!) is more likely to be effective in the long term than opportunities for NZ businesses. Getting some of the basics such as human rights, health care and education sorted are the priorities, not laying the ground for us to do well out of Burma in the future. Journos can see that. A real leader would see that.

6 Responses to “Aung San Suu Kyi to NZ – was anybody listening?”

  1. Rex Morris says:

    When a party puts a leader in purely to get votes,as national did, then this is what you get. John Key clearly has very shallow knowledge outside of financial wheeling and dealing. His language tells it all.

  2. Lou Peters says:

    Come on Rex “When a party puts a leader in purely to get votes”. Why do you think Labour has Shearer as leader and not Cunliffe? Votes before principles.

  3. The Al1en says:

    “Why do you think Labour has Shearer as leader and not Cunliffe? Votes before principles.”

    Yeah, like the next set of opinion polls won’t prove that wrong on both counts 😆

  4. Dorothy says:

    Key is an international embarrassment – it makes me cringe that other countries may think that is the best NZ can do.

  5. Brad says:

    Or … the other way you could look at it, is that trade and commerce is what allows people to accumulate real wealth, and therefore power. Its that power of the middle class that can oppose tyrannical governments and big business, which can ultimately lead to a stable balance of power such as we enjoy, and allows them to afford things like education and healthcare.

    But for this to happen the little guys need to be protected from big international business while they emerge and grow.

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