NZ response to Solomons spying documents "hypocritical"
Former Solomons officials slam NZ over spying allegations.
Former officials in the Solomon Islands Prime Minister's Office have accused New Zealand of hypocrisy in the wake of the spying revelations.
Documents released by the US whistle-blower Edward Snowden show that New Zealand set up a listening post in its high commission in Honiara to tap the mobile phone network and collect emails from named government employees.
The New Zealand Foreign Minister says the documents cannot be trusted, but those named in them have demanded he provide a better response.
Alex Perrottet reports.
Former and current government employees were named in the document that lists email addresses that were monitored. The New Zealand investigative journalist, Nicky Hager, who researched the papers after their release, says he was shocked that such people were on New Zealand's radar.
NICKY HAGER: I found that it's probably the most shocking thing I discovered in the Pacific, which was that these were not terrorists, or highly corrupt politicians or any excuse like that. These seem to be extremely respectable people who were working in the best interests of their country, either as public servants or in one case as an anti-corruption campaigner. And it doesn't look good for the New Zealand spy agency that they were targeting them.
The former chief of staff to Gordon Darcy Lilo, Robert Iroga, says New Zealanders need to ask themselves if it would be appropriate for Solomon Islanders to spy on them.
ROBERT IROGA: McCully shouldn't be underplaying this. This is a serious issue and his government is spying on another sovereign state. Imagine if Solomon Islands was doing that to New Zealand, what the reaction would be. So we don't have any hard powers, we don't have any strong soft powers to counter what New Zealand is doing but they should be ashamed of what they are doing. McCully should be ashamed of himself for spying on our people.
Robert Iroga says the Solomons government needs to immediately remove the spying equipment. The former PM's special secretary, Dr Philip Tagini, says the exposure is a breach of his constitutional rights.
PHILIP TAGINI: I do not expect New Zealand to be spying on officials like myself and others who are actually working with very certain intentions to protect our country but as well to work with New Zealand and Australia to advance the common agenda of the region. To spy on officials and the government, I think that's deplorable, that's not acceptable.
Dr Tagini says there are clear lines of communication and he can't understand why emails were gathered. The foreign minister Murray McCully, sent this statement via email:
MURRAY MCCULLY (WRITTEN STATEMENT): The Government will not be responding to claims made from documents stolen by Edward Snowden. The Snowden documents were taken some time ago and many are old, out of date, and we can't discount that some of what is being put forward may even be fabricated.
Nicky Hager has strongly denied anything was fabricated, and says the date of the documents doesn't change the fact that spying did occur. But Mr Iroga has gone further and says he suspected New Zealand was spying long before the revelations. He says New Zealand officials had information about the Solomons plans on using Taiwanese aid funds, and believes New Zealand shared that information with China.
ROBERT IROGA: New Zealand was bullying us in a lot of our negotiations. I was quite surprised that some of the information that they shouldn't know, they know already in some of the discussion and I won't tell what the information is but this all goes to tell you that they read exactly word for word what our discussions were and they had the upper hand.
Robert Iroga says he challenges Murray McCully to live up to the standards of transparency his country demands of others. There has been no further statement from the foreign ministry.
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