Hard News by Russell Brown

102

Fabrication and humanity

Between David Cunliffe's statements on the radio yesterday and John Armstrong's column in this morning's Herald, it wasn't difficult to find the more recent Refugee Status Appeals Authority decision on the case of Ali Panah.

I'm not sure if I should link to it, but you may take my word that it is not positive. The authority found that the evidence he brought to his second claim was fabricated and that there was no credible evidence that circumstances had changed so as to put him at risk in Iran. As Armstrong notes, his evidence in his 2004 claim was rejected in its entirety. I am not leaving out any finding in his favour: there was none. The authority essentially regarded his evidence on two separate occasions as a pack of lies.

Sentiment informs me that someone who is so desperate to live here as to try and starve himself to death could be welcomed. But the idea that Panah has not received due process is unsupportable, and his supporters' claims yesterday that there were only "relatively minor and explainable discrepancies" in the two cases made by Panah are frankly ridiculous.

I do admire the Anglican Church's decision to offer Panah shelter and support. It's striking the way that conservative Christians go missing in these cases: it's always the middle-of-the-roaders who do what Jesus would have done.

But we have a process: the same process that found Ahmed Zaoui's claim to be genuine. Apart from a ministerial decision on humanitarian grounds that would render the entire appeals process moot, it's hard to divine a basis for allowing him to stay in New Zealand. Armstrong concludes:

Mr Panah's supporters are already trying to shift the debate away from how he manipulated himself into his current predicament to whether, as a convert to Christianity, he will be safe if he is sent home.

Unless Mr Cunliffe can find a third country option, that will be a more difficult argument for the Immigration Minister to win as he can never totally guarantee something will not happen to Mr Panah. In that respect for the Government - and only in that respect - the Panah case could yet be Zaoui revisited.

Actually, I'm more put in mind of the case of the Sri Lankan girl, save that there are no politics to cloud the issue (which would presumably explain the absence of Judith Collins).

Meanwhile, Sydney goes into lockdown for the visit of an American president.

The Herald Sun's Securing the President story is interesting:

Further aircraft may follow Mr Bush with other support staff and military hardware to protect the president.

Foreign leaders are required to seek permission for their security staff to carry weapons in Australia but regardless of what permission is given, security experts say it is common for the leaders' guards to be armed.

Mr Bush will inevitably travel in convoy in a blast-proof, heavily armoured vehicle surrounded by other blast-proof, heavily armoured vehicles.

The delegations from the US, Russia and China are claiming sovereign immunity, meaning that quarantine staff will not be able to inspect their aircraft, while Helen Clark is one of five visiting leaders who will arrive on a normal commercial flight.

The SMH's news blog on the APEC shutdown has pages of comments from Sydneysiders, with quite a few demanding to know why the APEC meeting has not instead been inflicted on Canberra, which was, after all, created for this sort of thing.

Will the protestors be annoying? Probably. Some of the people who jammed Melbourne during the World Economic Forum meeting in 2000 were spectacularly arrogant, and the spokesman for the Stop Bush coalition was particularly irritating in his turn on Morning Report today.

But those are not reasons to halt lawful protest, and the police's attempt to have the right to such protest withdrawn by a court (yes, alright, the right to protest is not at stake; merely the right to protest anywhere near the people the protestors wish to address) is a bit creepy.

The self-described radical left has been planning for this since May. I hope no one does anything silly, even under provocation. It would be ironic if the protestors' eventual achievement was to help legitimise John Howard.

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