DIRTY POLITICS - PART 4: Chapter 12
Sting on Cunliffe: “Tum ting Wong” (something wrong) in Donghua Liu’s immigration letter!
Thakur Ranjit Singh
After reading Dirty Politics, I came out of it sick. (No wonder John Key wants to read it next week when he retires.) I decided to pick the ending chapter where PM’s office dug up 11 year old letter on a Chinese businessman, to discredit David Cunliffe in their plan of negative campaigning. The irony hit me when I heard that Kiwis have some observers in Fiji to observe their election today (17 September, 2014). What a hypocrisy- how can they advise Fijians on good governance with such a rotten lot at the heart of their own government?
This is a case of John Key’s Office making mischief by digging into the files of its predecessors, and breaching the civilised conventions of a “clean” NZ politics. Sitting in the midst of negative politics was John Key. For years Jason Ede had been working in his office, two doors along the corridor, coordinating attack politics for National Government and his master, Key. This is but one example of that… continue reading.
National’s close ties to wealthy Chinese immigrant donors had become a serious vulnerability for the party and they were keen to turn attention back on Labour. This was after National Cabinet Minister Maurice Williamson was forced to resign in May 2014 after he had phoned a senior police officer to advocate, and reportedly plead on behalf of Donghua Liu in a domestic violence charges. The minister did that because Liu, a Chinese immigrant businessman was National Party donor.
Six weeks later, on Tuesday June 17, the monkey was placed on David Cunliffe’s back, when in a crafty and questionable media ethics, he was asked “leading” and well-rehearsed questions about his acquaintance with the same person - Donghua Liu. On whether he had ever met Liu, had anything to do in granting permanent residency or had advocated on his behalf, Cunliffe said “I don’t recall, no” to all the leading questions.
Lo and behold, the next morning, government released a letter to media under the Official Information Act, which Cunliffe had written to the Immigration Service in 2003 about Liu’s residency application. This was 11 years earlier.
Media and National party leadership jumped on Cunliffe, accusing him of telling a lie, being untrustworthy, not fit to lead. NZ Herald’s chief political commentator John Armstrong said that Cunliffe was in deep trouble and would have to resign as Labour leader. John Key, who was in New York, and had orchestrated and had prior knowledge of this charade, jumped on the gravy train, and said ‘politics is about trust” and asked Cunliffe to explain his lie about any involvement with their donor, Liu. Deputy PM Bill English also joined the sham, accusing Cunliffe of being “tricky” and could not be trusted.
|For years Jason Ede had been working in his office, two doors along the corridor, (to John Key's office) coordinating attack politics for National Government and his master - John Key|
Unbeknown to Cunliffe, National’s Cabinet Minister Michel Woodhouse, who had released the Cunliffe letter, admitted Key was aware of the letter around 10 May, 2014. Hence they has weeks to sit on the letter and plan what to do with the letter.
All indications here are that Government orchestrated the release of the letter to harm Cunliffe. First, as with Goff-SIS hit (Israeli backpacker case, see part 2), journalists have been tipped off to make the official information request-by someone who knew about the Liu letter. Next, the requested information was fast-tracked and released two days after the requests were submitted- something unheard during normal situations.
But most obviously suspicious was the way the story came out. Why was Cunliffe asked very specific questions about his personal links to Liu just 24 hours before the fast-tracked letter reached the media? At that stage no one outside government supposedly even knew about the letter or any links to Liu existed. The political damage arose because Cunliffe was asked those questions when he did not know about the letter. It was the denial, not the letter itself that provided ammunition for the accusation of unworthiness and lying.
People need to appreciate that what Cunliffe did some 13 years ago was nothing wrong, something that all MPs do, writing or signing the letter. It was standard request what other MPs normally do. Hard-working electorate executives write hundreds like this every year. It noted that Donghua Liu, who lived in Cunliffe’s electorate, had been waiting eight months since his application had been accepted for processing and said “it would be helpful to Mr Liu to be advised of an estimated period of time in which he could expect a decision on his case.” That was all. Cunliffe has not “advocated” for Liu, or apparently even met him: the residency application, it seems, had been arranged by an immigration consultant.
The fact is that it was politically twisted to show that Cunliffe had lied. He had not. After 11 years, like most normal beings, he simply did not remember the letter. It was one of the thousands from his constituents who has asked for help during the years as an MP.
There is a bigger implication in this case. In arranging to tip-off the media and release the letter, the government had abused its powers and its control over public files. Any government can make endless mischief by digging into the files of its predecessors, but they usually refrain from doing this. And the usual understanding is that the current government checks with the previous government before releasing politically sensitive material requested via the Official Information Act (OIA). But in this Cunliffe’s case, release without warning was the plan – a plan to discredit Cunliffe by throwing the bait at a gullible and wanting media. That is how dirty Key and National are. Do they deserve another term? You get what you deserve.
[Disclaimer: All information in the above article is either direct quotations, paraphrased or interpretations from Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics]