Category Archives: History

Before you vote on Saturday….

I’ve just been thinking about some history, how we’ve often elected Governments which have enacted policies few people voted for, how we’ve tried to change them, always peaceably, via the ballot box, marches, peoples’ actions…yet still the forces of the New Right keep coming back and giving us more. In various guises, and in both parties of the New Right. In 1984 we voted to get rid of Muldoon and we ended up with Roger Douglas. IN 1990 we voted to get rid of that madness, to find ourselves lumbered with Ruth Richardson and the most dramatic social and economic revolution in our history.

We soon cottoned on to that, and just 3 years later in a complete reversal of fortune, National clung on by one seat, and only after Labour supplied the Speaker.

That government staggered on until 1999, when we finally had a government that was still committed to New Right ideology, but had enough humanity – in the shape of Jim Anderton – to repair some of the damage of the previous 15 years.

But the New Right was not done. They put up Don Brash, but that did not work – only just – in 2005. Then they found a smiling, easy-going investment banker, looking for a new game to play, with no political experience whatsoever, and no memory of any time in his life when he stood up for anything in particular.

They also had some new toys- highly refined spin machines , imported from Britain and the US, and bloggers, ready to do the dirty work that kept the Smiling Banker at an apparent arm’s length from the nasty stuff. Perfect. We the people – or most of us – bought it wholesale, and he was back in 2011, convinced that if he kept shrugging his shoulders at every problem that came his way and left it for a future government to worry about, the game could go on and on.

And so it did, and here we are on the cusp of another election, and all too many of us still have not figured it out. MAKE NO MISTAKE, National has plans for New Zealand to complete the experiment commenced in 1984. The past six years have been characterised by a huge increase in inequality, poverty, and the dismantling of the sort of society most of us hold very dear – what we believe is a decent and caring New Zealand that punches above its weight in the world on the issues that really matter.

National’s plans for the next three years are very frightening indeed, and have been spelt out by Gordon Campbell in his blog post which I put here earlier this week.

For those still toying with the Smiling Banker, I implore you to look carefully and to think deeply about how you will vote. No western country has the sort of extreme monetarist policies which exist in New Zealand. Polices advanced by the Greens, and (mostly) Labour, are mainstream almost everywhere else including Britain under its current Conservative government.  Market fundamentalism, says George Monbiot, is a “zombie ideology” that has prevented us from grappling with climate change the way we did with ozone depletion.

IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. Effective spin, lies and deliberate camouflage of real intent has to come to an end. Politics does NOT need to be a dirty, cynical, affair, and we CAN build the sort of smart, clean, compassionate New Zealand that we say we really want – and we so urgently need.

I urge you, if you have not already made up your mind to Party Vote Green, to think really really carefully about Saturday. The consequences of three more years of National will be nothing short of disastrous for ours and our childrens’ futures.
We are already looking at exceeding 2 degrees of global warming. We have to take all the steps we can to prevent that calamity. We have to address and reduce poverty which does so much harm to our country’s future.


For our children’s’ sake, Party Vote Green this Saturday.

Towards a history: The New Zealand Values Party and The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand


Les Cleveland in his “The Anatomy of Influence” (1972)  wrote that “green politics is essentially a reaction to the inability of the ‘old left’ to address the values and aspirations of the young post-materialist minority…the future of green politics is dependent on the way the social democratic party responds to new issues.”  This was certainly true for the establishment of Values, but I shall explore the extent to which this is correct for the arrival, and survival, of the Green Party.

The New Zealand Values Party was the world’s first national green party. It contested the 1972 General Election and again in 1975, when it secured just over 5% of the vote, but no seats in parliament due to the first-past-the-post voting system then in place1The party continued to contest elections but without success until 1989, when, in September of that year, the party’s newsletter Linkletter proposed that the party be wound up. A variety of reasons were given, chief amongst them the perception that the party had failed, that some of the policies had been taken up by other parties, and that they did not have the funds to continue2.

Values Party logo flag from the 1970s

Values Party logo flag from the 1970s

In the 1980s the word green began to be used internationally to encapsulate, in essence, a rejection of materialism and the promotion of environmental protection. In the early 1980s the election of hardline conservative leaders such as Thatcher and Reagan, and rising concern over nuclear power and other threats, gave fresh impetus to the environmental movement and its political expression, including in New Zealand. The Labour party had been elected in July 1984 promising to make New Zealand nuclear-free.

These concerns were to become merged with a desire to transform society to one that is less materialistic, under the umbrella term “green”.

The Formative Years

In June 1988 a “Green Gathering” had been held in Golden Bay, which formed the “Golden Bay Green Coalition”, with Heather Wallace as convenor.3 Other green groups began to form around New Zealand.

Values Party member Bernard Merwood proposed to the remaining 140 voting members of Values in September 1989 that the party continue, and be renamed ‘The Green Party of Aotearoa’.4

The name The Greens had its origins in the German party Die Grnen, which met with parliamentary success in the West German elections of 1983 and was a conscious model for those forming the New Zealand Greens in 1989.5 

At its Council meeting on 18th November 1989 “Values, the Green Party of Aotearoa” decided to drop the word ‘Values’ and at the same time adopt what was then the international logo for Green politics, a sunflower in a Green circle.    The constitution and policies remained unchanged[^7] .  The national spokespeople were appointed, Janet McVeagh and Nick Merwood.

The party, under the name of Nick Merwood, issued a press release, which noted that it is “vitally important that those who wish for a Green future are given the chance to vote for it and so are dedicated to providing a full list of candidates [in the election] next year.  We invite all those who share the vision of a just and sustainable society to join with us in obtaining it.” (7)

Janet McVeagh was a former Values Party activist from New Plymouth; Nick Merwood, then in his 30s, was from Matakana, north of Auckland.  Nick’s father, Bernard, was the party general secretary.  Louise Merwood was the party Treasurer and Membership Secretary at this time.  (8)  Tony Dromgool took on the task of compiling a newsletter to go to 300 selected individuals on the mailing list and to about 40 organisations including news media outlets, libraries and various non-governmental organisations, who were invited to subscribe.  The Green Alternative in Wellington, Tasman Greens in Golden Bay, Green Coalition in Russell, Green Lobby in Hamilton, Green Action in New Plymouth and the Mahurangi Greens in Warkworth were the Green groups who were invited to subscribe, and by doing so, to register their interest in joining the new party.

Logo of the German Green Party

Logo of the German Green Party

A Green Gathering was called and this was held in Wainuiomata near Wellington in November 1989. This meeting came to a number of conclusions which were carried forward to another gathering in Kaiteriteri, near Motueka, from the 23rd to 25th March, 19906.  The agenda for the conference covered such issues as deciding on the right Green structure for New Zealand; developing proposals for that structure; deciding on areas to be covered in Green policy; draft basic policy; and developing specific strategies for the 1990 election.

A Green Charter was decided upon.

Two Green Party of Aotearoa co-convenors were elected, Tony Hartnett and Janet McVeagh.

The Green Council of the Green Party of Aotearoa held a meeting over the weekend of 5th/6th May 1990. It decided to call a follow-up conference to Kaiteriteri. A letter came out of this Council meeting which was sent to all green groups around New Zealand under the name of Janet McVeagh. The letter explained that Chris Thomas, who was spokesperson for a group called The Greens and a member of The Green Alternative of Wellington, had written to The Green Party of Aotearoa proposing a merger of the groups, and a meeting was called for 25th/26th May at the Quaker Settlement in Whanganui to discuss the creation of a single Green Party.

Others who put their names to the green groups letter were Richard Davies, Andy Spence, Leon Roborgh, Nicole Morgan, Wendy Morgan, Tony Dromgool, Fernando Gusingo, Faith Read, Rosemary Shankland and Vic Shankland, Yvonne Amery and Nick Pyle. The letter was sent to the Wellington Green Alternative, Auckland Greens, the Canterbury Greens, the Golden Bay and Tasman Greens, “and other groups”.7

The topics discussed at Whanganui were:

1. A unification statement

2. What is this group and what is its relationship to other groups?

3. A summary of the Kaiteriteri discussions

4. The name of the party

5. A national structure

6. Process for resignation of officers

7. Membership and financial structure

8. Election strategies

9. The selection of candidates

10. Provision for a policy weekend

11. Marketing and publicity

12. Treaty of Waitangi issues

Member Andrew Spence took notes: “Those present…agreed to unify their Green political interests under a single organisation to represent their ideals and policies”. 8 “The Greens” was formed to represent the fifteen regionally autonomous groups which were present at Kaiteriteri under a single organisation, but “…not established as a political party, and many of the groups present did not wish to belong to a political party.” There was resistance to adopting the word “party”; some strongly felt that they did not want the Greens to become a traditional political party. After much discussion it was agreed to become a political party “The Greens: The Green Party of Aotearoa/New Zealand”, the name which remains today, but there was then and remains a sense within The Greens that we are as much a movement, as we are a party, and that this is even more important than being a political party.

During the conference the New Zealand Party, which had been formed in 1984 by Bob Jones in order to defeat the Muldoon government, made an approach to the representatives of the Values Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa to try to persuade them to join a three-party coalition whose aim would be to push for proportional representation. But the Secretary of the new political party The Greens was instructed to write to the groups concerned stating that “they did not wish to be involved with this coalition.”9 The Democrat party did decide to join the coalition, but the New Labour Party and Social Credit joined with the Greens in declining to join. Thus were the seeds sown for a future alliance arrangement.

The Whanganui gathering made three statements of intent:

(1) That they were united as one political Green group

(2) The Greens will consist of autonomous local groups united by a national structure as outlined in the Green Charter and

(3) The Green Charter represents the present state of discussions among the Greens

The proposed structure comprised an elected Council from the 23 regional Green groups, which in turn appointed a governing Executive. Janet McVeagh was appointed as the national contact for candidates. Publicity for the new party was to be the responsibility of Nick Pyle. A publicity working group was established consisting of Allan Hallett, Jenny-Kaye Potaka, Peter Davis, Lee-Ann Brownson, Martin Wallace and Jon Field. Vic and Rosemary Shankland were tasked with obtaining registration for the party with the Electoral Commission.

Three publications were set up: Green Print, Green Link, and Green Web (Green Web was already in existence; it was decided to continue it and to send it to local groups, with Chris Thomas as editor).

The membership system was placed in the hands of local groups. Chas Hamblyn was appointed National Treasurer, Secretary was Stuart Miller, Media Liasion Allan Hallett, Policy Secretaries were Leon Roborgh and Janet MacVeigh, and Tony Hartnett, Jenny-Kaye Potaka, Jon Field, Christine Dann and Yvonne Amery were all appointed Spokespersons. Wendy Morgan and Janine McVeigh were International Liaison representatives.

A policy weekend was planned for 23/24 June in New Plymouth, with Leon Roborgh as the organiser.

An issue of “The Green Web”, dated 30 May 1990, calling itself a “Regional Coordination networking newsletter”, was sent out to all regional groups setting out what had happened at Whanganui. It stated that the event was “an historic ‘tying of the knot’: The Greens and the Green Party of Aotearoa have merged to form a single political organisation….some of those present saw it as the final chapter for The Values Party.” 10

Already, candidates were coming forward for the parliamentary elections later that year.

Stephen Rainbow had been selected for Wellington Central; Gillian Hope for Island Bay; Denis Foot for Miramar; Gary Reese for Ohariu; Kari Haydon for Western Hutt; Leon Roborgh for New Plymouth, and another member standing in Wanganui.

The 1990 Election and the responses of other political parties; the party forms itself

In July 1990 the Green Party reached 8% in the polls; it had qualified for state broadcasting funding during the election campaign in October and scored 6.9% of the votes cast on polling day, 27th October – a remarkable achievement for a party that had only been formed just a few months prior.

The election was followed by a period of self-styled “navel gazing” by party members.  A South Island Green Gathering was held at the Old Vicarage in Governor’s Bay near Christchurch on 3rd and 4th November to reflect on what happened and where next, and the Rotorua Greens organised a similar event for the North Island, as a “post-election analysis weekend/experience on the same dates.

From 23rd to 25th November 1990 a further conference was held at Massey University in Palmerston North with 74 delegates and 38 observers. A formal structure was set up and meeting procedures agreed to.  The Green Council met on 24th/25th November 1990.

There was a National Conference at Tuakau from 29 March to 1 April 1991. Chris Thomas was appointed General Secretary at that meeting. Teddy Goldsmith from the UK came to speak.

The party elected national officeholders:

Wendy Lynch as female national convenor

Chris Thomas as male national convenor

Christine Dann and Judy Whatley as female speakers

Jon Field and Mike Smith as male speakers

Just prior to this conference Mike Smith has already met with Jim Anderton of the New Labour Party, Matiu Rata of Mana Motuhake and Garry Knapp of Social Credit to talk “of some sort of co-operation to assist the MMP campaign”. 11 This move was not met with approval from all members of The Greens. Smith wrote that “…after many, many, meetings, visits and phonecalls, eight of us – I was joined by Chris Thomas – met in Anderton’s office for the first ‘official’ meeting…we bashed out the basics of an agreement to co-operate on MMP [campaign for electoral reform], with a promise to look at what other areas of policy we had in common, and so the Alliance was conceived”. 12 Smith states that he was the person “most instrumental” in getting the Greens into the Alliance, and this formation of left parties was officially launched on 1st December 1991, but the Green party did not join the Alliance formally until May 1992.

As support for stronger environmental policy gained momentum in New Zealand, the Labour government had established the Department of Conservation and a Ministry for the Environment, as well as the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, in 1986. At the 1989 Labour party conference, then Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer made a keynote speech of which about a third was about the environment. “Environmental problems threaten to engulf us”, he noted, “…they pose serious questions for the whole future of our civilisation” (14).  The government was then in the process of drafting a massive piece of legislation called the Resource Management Act which passed in 1990, and Palmer addressed the United Nations that year calling for the creation of a new UN agency to protect the environment and that environmental issues should be added to the UN Charter.

The National party was more laggardly in its response, but had to move in reaction to the far-ranging reforms to environmental administration which Palmer had initiated under the previous government.  On 13 July 1990 National launched its Environment, Conservation and Resource allocation policy with a speech delivered in West Auckland by party leader Jim Bolger entitled “Keeping New Zealand Green”.    In the speech Bolger claimed to go further than Labour, by pushing for a ban on mining in the Antarctic and on drift net fishing, the creation of more marine reserves, and the setting up of “Taskforce Green”, to train the long term unemployed in new skills by paying them to undertake conservation and related work, amongst other specific measures (15).   However they were not prepared to support the Resource Management Act in the form proposed by Labour and clearly wanted to allow continued mining in New Zealand (except for national parks) and the promotion of the rights of landowners above the environment.

Although the Labour government of 1984-1990 had clearly taken on board environmental concerns and made significant advances, a great deal more remained to be done, and National – despite its claims – was not the party to fill the void.  The threat of climate change was looming on the horizon – the Rio Earth Summit was only two years away – but it was not yet within the vision or understanding of the two main political parties and was not mentioned at all in Bolger’s speech. Yet there was a recognition that all parties had to move to meet the challenges, and to address the public demand for strengthened environmental protections.

A Green politics seminar was held in Auckland in September or October 1991, which was attended by Green party members and interested others.

The party joins the Alliance in 1992

The party held a regular series of meetings in 1991 and 1992 as it began to work out how to it wished to govern itself, and its future political positioning and strategy.  The Green Council held a meeting in Ohakune in November 1991 and again from 7th to 9th February in 1992.

Regional meetings were also held in 1991, with the Auckland Regional Greens meeting on 19th June and a Christchurch Green festival on 14th July 1991.

On 22 July 1991 a meeting was held in Wellington to discuss the possibility of some sort of electoral cooperation with the New Labour Party.

[source: MS-papers-9207-03 at ATL]. on 23rd August that same year Mike Smith wrote to regional delegates and coordinators advising them at a meeting had been held with the Greens and Democrats, the New Labour Party and Mana Motuhake to look at options – merger, a full coalition, or an Alliance of parties, or other options – with a further meeting to be held in 6 weeks in Auckland.

In March 1992 the Greens’ Alliance Structure Working Group reported options to the party.

At the annual conference of the party at Nelson Girls College, Nelson, held from 9th to 12th May in 1992, the party decided to join the Alliance of political parties.  82% of delegates voted in favour [source: Greenweb].  The decision came with certain “safeguards”, one of which was that  “the decision to join the Alliance will lapse at the first conference following the next general election requiring a renewed commitment from the Greens if the Alliance is to continue” [source: Ms-papers-9207-03]. A further safeguard provided that a 75% vote of delegates to a conference would be sufficient to withdraw the Greens from the Alliance at any time.

The 1993 election

The Green movement splits, and re-forms again

The Alliance was an uneasy one, with many members sitting uncomfortably within the fold.  The 1994 conference reaffirmed the decision to remain part of the Alliance, but the Greens did lose members. Stephen Rainbow left to form the Progressive Greens with Gary Taylor and Guy Salmon.  The Progressive Green Party was committed to

Hans Grueber left to set up The Green Society in spring 1994, and took others such as Chris Marshall and Peter Whitmore from Auckland, with him. They styled themselves as “The party caring for your earth and her people”, and claimed that the Green Party had “abandoned the green space on the ballot paper.  They became part of another political party.  They abandoned a long tradition of being an independent green political force”.[17]   The Green Society committed to seven principles, similar in purpose to those of the Green Party but with an emphasis on personal self-reliance and autonomy, “where people and communities should have power over their own affairs to the greatest extent possible so far as there are no ill effects on the environment and on others” [17].  They sought a “balance” between the natural world and economic activities: “we acknowledge the function of the market economy and will provide a framework to achieve ecologically and economically sustainable development” [17].  The Green Society gained little support or membership numbers.

At around the same time, a third grouping, the tiny Green Centre Party, was also launched [17]. The founder was Robert Miles, a journalist working for the Timaru Herald and a contributing writer for the National Business Review in the early 1990s. He attacked the Green Party for lacking “the ability to formulate or implement an electable platform and political structure.  Joining the Alliance is a cop-out from making the hard decisions to form a viable party…the Alliance Combo is the vehicle for big, centralised Government”.  He similarly criticised Labour, for offering only “a picture postcard greenism”.  Chief amongst the Centre Green Party’s policies were the replacement of our armed forces with a coastguard, the sale of some state assets and a nuclear free New Zealand. The party appears to have gained no traction at all and was not registered as a party at the 1995 election.

Of these three offshoot groups, the alternative Green party that gathered  the most support was the Progressive Greens.

The Electoral Commission was unclear as to which parties could justifiably register as “The Green Party” and held a meeting in the spring of 1995 to which they asked The Greens, the Progressive Greens and the Green Society to appear and state their case. After months of debate and delay the Greens won the right to call themselves the The Green Party and registered the party as such with the Electoral Commission.13

In May 1995 the National Government sought to open talks with the Progressive Green Party to form some sort of political alliance, and announced a boost in funding for endangered species [Press release by Pete Hodgson, Labour spokesperson on Environment, 11 May 1995:” National’s attempt at buying Green vote desperate”]. Simon Upton, in announcing new measures in June 1995, noted that “Economic growth carries with it environmental risks”, noting that the government was committing some of the “dividend” from the “success” of its economic policies to environmental issues [Budget 1995 press release, Simon Upton, 1 June 1995].16

Green Party publications sometimes satirised the Alliance leader, Jim Anderton, for what some saw as his overly ambitious and overbearing style.

Summer gathering at Nydia Bay Lodge, Pelorus Sound, January 1996

The 1996 Election

The Alliance won 10% of the vote in the 1996 election and Rod Donald, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Phillida Bunkle were all elected as Alliance Green Party MPs, along with 9 others from the other parties in the Alliance, and Jim Anderton won his seat of Wigram. The party sat on the Opposition benches, however, as New Zealand First did an about-turn on its pre-election statements and allowed National to form a government.  This was the first MMP election, meaning that any party that scored above 5% of the party vote became entitled to parliamentary representation.

Finally, in 1997, and after much debate within the party, the Greens decided to leave the Alliance and to contest the 1999 election in their own right. Rod Donald and Jeanette remained Alliance MPs until the 1999 election however, which confused some voters, but was necessary, they stated, because they had been elected as Alliance MPs, and were honor-bound to remain so.  The decision to leave the Alliance was a very hard fought and contested one.  A Special General Meeting Meeting was held in Wellington to make the decision on 22nd November, 1997, and Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons made the announcement the following day.

The party flourished out of the Alliance. A series of regional conferences were held around the provinces in 1998: a Northern Conference (for Northern province, top of North East, and top of central) on 28th March; a Wellington Conference (for Wellington province, rest of north east, and central) on 29th Marc; Christchurch conference for Aoraki province on 4th April; Top of the South regional conference in Nelson on 5th April, with Deep South meeting in Dunedin on the same day; another meeting of Northern and North east Greens on 8th August; and a national gathering/conference/AGM at Queen’s Birthday weekend, 29 May to 1st June 1998, at St Hilda’s Collegiate School in Dunedin.


The 1999 Election

Written off by the news media, the party won both the seat of Coromandel and 5.1% of the party vote, entitling them to 7 list members of parliament in the 1999 to 2002 session.

In 1998 the party had one part time paid administrator, Sharon Stephens.  Sharon left at the end of 1998 and the party advertised for a replacement.  Michael Pringle was appointed to the role in April 1999 and commenced work from the spare bedroom in the “Green House” in Thorndon, Wellington, of the Green MPs Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons, at 15 hours per week.

The party also had a media advisor, Jacob Rawls, who was replaced by Jonathan Hill in April 1999, also on 15 hours per week.  In advance of the 1999 election, Kelley Auerbach was appointed as full time national campaign manager on 24 March, 1999, on a three-month contract.  At the termination of her contract, Roland Sapsford and Christine Dann took on the role of joint campaign managers, Roland from his work base in Wellington and Christine from her home on Banks Peninsula.  Given the very scarce human resources devoted to the campaign, the party relied heavily on the energy and commitment of its Co-Leaders and on the branch rank and file to get out and deliver leaflets, door-knock, and hold Saturday morning stalls in shopping centres.  Local candidates stood in most electorates and were therefore able to stand up at meet-the-candidate meetings to explain Green policy and appeal for the party vote.


1999 election outcome:

The Labour Party and the Alliance formed a coalition government with a brief coalition agreement signed between the parties on 6th December, 9 days after the election and one day before the final election result was known. The Greens were excluded because on election night we had failed to cross the 5% threshold and were therefore out of parliament, and it took ten days to count all the special and overseas votes and declare a final result.

The Alliance and Labour had a majority in parliament on the election night results (63 of 120 seats ). But once the final vote count was tallied this combined seat total dropped to 59 and the new government had lost its parliamentary majority.   However, the Greens had won both the seat of Coromandel and scraped in with 5.2% of the party vote, and the support of the Greens’ seven new MPs became essential to the new government to guarantee confidence and supply.   This was given at a meeting of the Co-Leaders (Fitzsimons and Donald) with Prime Minister Helen Clark on 8th December 1999.  The Co-leaders could have pressed for more formal involvement in the new government, but chose not to, preferring to form a “legislative coalition” rather than an “executive coalition” (Boston, in Left Turn, 2000) in order to avoid the complications of being in government and the potential pitfalls for a small and new party being involved in Cabinet-level decision-making.

In return for supporting the government on matters of confidence and supply and on procedural matters in the House, the Greens would give the government their views on policy and contribute to policy development.  This was a verbal understanding and although a formal agreement was drafted, this was never actually signed in the whole term of the government (1999-2002).  The Greens would support stable and effective government and the government was stable for its entire term.


The 2002 Election

The 2005 Election

In late 2004, Russel Norman was appointed Campaign Manager for the 2005 election.  Sue Bradford MP was appointed Convenor of the Campaign Committee.

On 5th November 2005, Co Leader Rod Donald died suddenly at his home in Christchurch.  He left a wife and three daughters, and a party in mourning.  The Prime Minister and hundreds of other people attended his funeral at Christchurch Cathedral. He died only a few weeks after his 48th birthday.  The shock at his death was considerable.  The House suspended day’s business and observed a minute’s silence in the House.  The party was left reeling, with Jeanette Fitzsimons continuing alone as party leader.

The 2008 Election

The 2011 Election

This election returned the best result to date for the Greens – 11.1% of the vote and 14 members of parliament. The total votes cast for the Greens were 247,372.

The 2014 Election

In June 2102 the Green Party was polling at 14.8% in a New Zealand Herald poll.  The final election result gave the party 10.7% of the vote, 14 list MPs and a total vote of 257, 329, an increase of 10,000 on 2011, but in an election where the overall number of votes cast also increased on 2011.  It was an extraordinarily difficult election for the progressive parties and one widely acknowledged to be perhaps the strangest election in New Zealand’s political history.

The 2017 Election

Prime Minister Bill English announced that the date of 2017 general election was to be 23rd September.

On xx August Co-Leader Metiria Turei made a speech to the party faithful in Auckland in which she endeavoured to draw greater public attention to the plight of those in poverty in New Zealand including those on welfare benefits.

The speech was to spark an impassioned debate in New Zealand which sparked an extraordinary series of political events, delivering the Green Party one of its greatest shocks since the death of Rod Donald in 2005.





Dann, Christine: “From earth’s last islands: the global origins of Green politics”. PHd thesis, Lincoln University, 1999.

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand papers, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

MS group 1209: agendas, newsletters, minutes.

Personal collection of Green Party records, newsletters and membership records.

Vowles, Jack and Peter Aimer: Voters’ Vengeance. The 1990 election in New Zealand and the Fate of the Fourth Labour Government. AUP 1993.

1 Vowles and Aimer, 1993, p.127

2 Bernard Merwood, communication to party members, 19 September 1989

3 ATL MS-papers-9207-05; notes from early issues of Linkletter

4  Merwood, 19.9.1989

5 Dann, 1991

(6) Greenlink, newsletter of the Green Party of Aotearoa, Issue 1, December 1989

(7) Greenlink,  Issue 1, December 1989.

(8) Greenlink, issue 1, December 1989

6 ATL MS-papers-8634-1, notes by Philip Chubb

7 ATL MS-papers – 2003-176-1/14

8 Greens: Minutes and Agendas, ATL MS-papers-8634-1

9 ATL MS-papers-8634-1

10 ATL MS-papers-8634-1, notes written by Chris Thomas of Wellington

11  Mike Smith, Brief CV, in statement in support of Green Party co-leadership bid in May 1995

12  Smith, 1995

13  Greenlink: the newsletter of the Aoraki Greens, Spring 1995

14.  Palmer. The parliamentary years, by Raymond Richards, 2010, pp352-353

15. Speech by Jim Bolger launching the National Party’s election policy, 13 July 1990, sourced in the archives of the Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO), 2 February 2016.  File “Election 1990”.

16. The Labour and National press releases quoted here were accessed in Environment and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand file POL H1/National.

17.  References to alternative Green parties are taken from papers in the Environment and Conservation Organisations file POL H1/Green politics.

Manufacturing reality in 21st century New Zealand

Peter Wells’ report of his encounter with the NZ Herald journalist makes very interesting reading: he writes that Andrew Stone of the Herald built his own “story”, ruthlessly discarding facts; Wells says “the case for Kereopa’s ‘innocence’, as outlined in the Herald, was a muddled mixture of conjecture and post hoc conclusions”.

This is troubling enough and should caution us against everything we read.  The NZ Herald reported complete lies about Labour and Dong Hua Liu, and have only just published a very small apology.  And there will be much else besides where we don’t know what to believe, or disbelieve.  But such stories manufacture understanding, and in turn become what everyone accepts as the “truth”.  We see this to startling effect in the way that the John Key machine is successfully able to manufacture widespread consent for what are actually their unpopular policies.

Also troubling in the Wells story is that the Office of Treaty Settlements rang up Wells and asked him to stop blogging on the pardon as it was “controversial”.  What happened to freedom of speech, a diversity of views, the right to say what one thinks, within the laws of defamation?

It is also troubling that Stone, the journalist, had  “swallowed hook line and sinker the ahistorical Treaty and iwi presentation of Kereopa Te Rau’s case”.  Wells means the OTS which has manufactured a presentation of events over Volkner’s murder which do not accord with the facts as Wells has researched and written them.

It seems there are two versions of truth in New Zealand in relation to our past: that of the impartial researcher – and Wells is certainly that, with a large measure of empathy for the Maori perspective – and that of the Treaty settlements industry, which blithely disregards facts in order to arrive at a conclusion.  Of course the iwi seek as much as they can and will present the history to suit their cause.
But as Peter says – and as accounts at the time testify – Kereopa was largely complicit in Volkner’s murder, short of actually hauling up the rope that hanged him.  There is now another version of history which is not substantiated by the facts, and that is the version arrived at by the OTS, and now – in spite of hearing what Peter said and reading his book – presented to the 500,000 readers of the NZ Herald as a justifed exoneration of Kereopa for a deed he did in fact commit.  And is most likely swallowed, hook, line and sinker, by the readership.

All very troubling.  Yes, we are gullible.

10 days in Singapore

I flew to Singapore to see Hong Joo, on 19th June.  He met me at the airport at 10pm and it was a very good to see one another again.

He had booked us in to a small and inexpensive hotel in Balestier Road.  This was a basic hotel but new and clean.  Our windowless room served only as a bed for the night as we explored some of what Singapore has to offer.

Hong Joo had to work but had some days off later in the week I was there.  we explored the markets, the Singapore Flyer, Little India extensively, Sentosa Island by day and by night, Orchard Road, and Changi Prison.  To cap it off we had a weekend trip to Melaka, in Malaysia.

Hong Joo On the MRT, Singapore

We looked over the Kampong Glam and Little India district.  How fascinating it is there!

Michael and HJ in Kampong Glam

Intriguing small shops, streets, mosques, the Malay Heritage centre, there is a lot to do and see in a small area.  In Singapore one area gives away to another very quickly so the city has a villagey air about it.

We lunched often in Serangoon Road, this time at Komala Vila, a fabulous and very cheap eatery, where, as you can see, they serve the most enormous dosai, and delicious small sweets from the shop adjacent:

Huge dosai, Komala Vila

We had huge fun there; it’s the sort of place you want to go back to again and again and try everything on the menu.  The waiter was a handsome Indian whom we fancied paid special attention to our table, delivering us napkins, water, etc before we even had to ask.

The heritage of Singapore does still exist, contrary to rumour, and this is a good place to see rows of Chinese shophouses beautifully restored:

Shophouses, Kampong Glam

The Singapore flyer, the height of modernity

and modern design and construction, is another must-see in Singapore.  Hong Joo had a ticket from a previous, aborted “flight” and I had pre-booked mine on the web.

We soared above the city at a civilised pace, and the extent of construction, in the midst of a global recession, was breathtaking.

On the Flyer

The Flyer is similar to the London Wheel.  There are moments when you feel quite dizzy at the top, as it moves around to begin the descent.  You have plenty of time to take in all the sights and look far out into Malaysia and Indonesia.

View from the Flyer

Safely back on Terra Firma we looked around the tropical gardens at the base of the Flyer, and had time for some lunch there.

Hong Joo in the gardens, at the Flyer

In the afternoon we crossed to Sentosa Island.  That involved taking a dedicated monorail across the harbour to the former prison island, now daytrip resort for Singaporeans.  For $3 return anyone can cross and spend the day on the beaches, playing games, seeing light shows, fountains, fun rides, eating and drinking, and so on.  It is all a bit expensive there so we contented ourselves with a short bush walk before heading to the beach to swim.

Bush walking on Sentosa Island

On the beach, Sentosa Island (Michael has been for a swim)

We headed back into Singapore and straight to Tekka market, where, on this sultry Sunday evening, hundreds and hundreds of Tamil men had gatherd, holding hands, chatting and gossipping, a low murmur coming from the huge crowd of men swarming all over the area.  All they were doing was chatting, packed in so tightly in some corners one could hardly move, or eating and drinking.  We had delicious chicken rice from one stall for $5, served in a large piece of brown paper, watching the immense crowd of men all around.

We walked down to Serangoon Road to catch a bus back to our hotel, amazed and exhausted at the astonishing thing we had witnessed!

Hong Joo saw a little Chinese shop there which, he said, reminded him of his father’s dear little store in Taiping, where he sold everything, stock crammed in to every little nook and cranny. Indian men were doing their shopping, filling plastic and other bags with vegetables, herbs and spices.. …we drank lovely tea from one stall, to fortify us for the short bus ride back.  So hot and tired by now!

Hj fell asleep on the bus on the way back!  It had been a wonderful, if hot and tiring, day!

I had some days in Singapore to explore the museums, the National Library where I spent a very interesting few hours, old churches including the Armenian Church, meeting up with Hong Joo for meals in the evening before going back to our hotel.   One day I went out to Changi, and Hong Joo, having finished work, joined me out there.  A fascinating and moving place, where the Europeans who were on the island at the time of the Japanese occupation, were interned.

Hong Joo at Changi Prison

At night we ate at Smith Street, the famous outdoor strip with many food vendors and tables, near the night market in Chinatown.

Eating at Smith St, Chinatown

Finally we moved into a more upmarket hotel for one night, near the river.  That was fantastic!

There was a pool and our room was on a corner, with great views over the downtown part of the city.  It was nicely furnished.  Nearby is the Raffles Hotel and we looked that over, including the fascinating free museum within the hotel, all about its history.  Well worth seeing.

Our swanky hotel

As we were near Clarke Quay we wanted to head

down there to see some of the River festival which was on at that time.  First we stepped below street level to a Burmese food court, which was, of course, full of Burmese enjoying dishes from their homeland.  We had three very delicious dishes between us!

So many little communities within Singapore!

Our last night in Singapore was spent on Clark Quay, watching people being flung into the air on the bungee, seeing the boats from the Parade of Illuminated Boats, and enjoying a glass of wine at a Spanish wine bar on the river.  It was delightful!  And a pleasant temperature too.

On the river, Clarke Quay

at the tapas bar, Clarke Quay

It was a lovely relaxing highlight to end our Singapore sojourn on the river, enjoying an ice cream, strolling up and down with the throngs,

and then heading back to our nice hotel…

many wonderful memories!


Hong Joo had booked us onto a 9.30am bus to Melaka on Friday morning, and we made it by the skin of our teeth, at 9.27am.  Fortunately they were waiting for us, and, covered in a rich layer of sweat, we clambered aboard.

Up the motorway to Malacca!  I had booked us into the Kancil guesthouse and our taxi driver took us to the door.  Daud, our sober but helpful host, took his time to tell us what to see and how to get there, and we headed out after a short rest to explore.

Bukit St Paul was close by and we looked over the monuments there, and then the Museum.

At St Paul's Church, on the hill, Malacca

Becak, Melaka

The becak there are outrageously decorated, and congregate around the Dutch church, Christ Church.

Christ Church, Melaka

We looked over the Chinatown area and had a beer and snack as we watched the stall holders set up for the famous night market in Jalan Hang Jebat.  As night fell, we joined in the throngs in this fantastic market, quite the most atmospheric and enjoyable I’ve seen, and we grazed and snacked our way up the street (now closed to all traffic).  At the top we found a delightful kopi tiam serving cendol, where we ordered one each – so nice!  Sat in the back room with lots of locals chatting and laughing and slurping on their cendol.

At the pasar malam, Melaka

We walked down to the river where we found a boat that would take us upriver for 30 minutes or so.   Near the wharf, after our ride, we found this garden of light sculptures of animals, which was lots of fun too:

Melaka riverfront

Next morning, we walked into Chinatown to look around the historic area in more detail.  We looked at the historic Herren House, and had a guided tour of a Baba Nonya house, now beautifully restored and open to the public.  The man at the Herren House recommended Nancy’s Kitchen to us for Baba Nonya food for lunch, and we were very lucky indeed in finding a spare table as the place is always packed out.  It is very small!  Nancy herself came out and helped us choose our dishes: oh!  the food was mouthwatering!  Spices from exotic locations, and all so simply made and wholesome.

Baba Nonya lunch, Nancy's recipe

Chinatown, Melaka

After that scrumptious feast, we continued our historic walk around Chinatown, where old trades still hang on, for how much longer, one cannot be sure.  Walking around was very hot and we had to stop often for refreshments.  Despite the insane traffic hurtling down narrow streets, Melaka retains many delightful streets and much history.

Old town, Malacca

We went back to the charming Kancil guesthouse for a rest and sleep before heading out to the festival at the Portuguese settlement, at Medan Portugis, the festival of San Pedro and San Juan.

There were large crowds there, but not too crowded, and not that much to see or do. Other than eat the local Portuguese food which I was keen to do.

We did try various dishes, and chatted to the locals, who as well as speaking the local Portuguese patois, Kristan, also seem to speak beautiful English.  It was their big annual festival, and so a lot of eating, celebrating and partying was going on.

Serving up and eating durian, Medan Portugis

We stayed around there for a while watching something of the cultural show, where the Governor of Malacca state turned up (and went around shaking every hand except for mine), and he with various local important people sat in the centre of the crowd enjoying a feast, with everyone else watching.  More and more food stalls seemed to be being set up, and we did not go hungry that night!  Memorable also were the little deep fried snacks from the Indian community.

We walked back to our hotel – it was only 2 km – but got slightly lost, each person we spoke to, even at the police station, giving us wrong directions, to find that Daud had locked us out – we missed curfew by 3 minutes!  Fortunately he was still awake and he admitted us, telling us also to close our windows as it was about to rain.  Disbelieving, as it showed no sign, I did not, but within minutes of getting into bed, loud drops began to hit the iron, and

soon, an immense downpour…we closed the windows!  It was lovely to lie in bed and listen to the rain hitting the roof – for Hong Joo, it was very atmospheric and special as it reminded him so much of his Taiping childhood, where his house had an iron roof also.  That was a most memorable and lovely way to end our stay in Malacca.

Our bus back to Singapore did not leave until 2pm so we had a lazy start on  Sunday morning, enjoying coffee and tropical fruits in the garden at the back of Kancil and listening to the call of the mosque nearby.  Surprisingly tranquil there, considering that it fronted on to a manic street. It was a charming place, and we shared it only with a couple from Israel.

Kancil Guesthouse; our room on the left

Becak ride, Malacca

We went out and had a final stroll, and took a becak on a short ride round the historic centre, though the driver seemed to do remarkabl little pedalling and wanted us to get off at many places and take photographs, places we had already senn…never mind, it was a fun, touristy thing to do!

On the bus at 2pm, we had a good trip back to Singapore on time, walked to the nearest MRT, and out to Changi airport…where we had to say a very sad farewell to each other! That was a very sad moment indeed where we both wept!

A sad farewell at the airport

It will not be long before we are re-united!  And we must never be apart for so long again!

Bridge over the River Kwai

At last the real Thailand has begun to reveal itself to me.

I begin this blog in Kanchanburi, where allied prisoners of war and Javanese, Malay, Indochinese  and Burmese slave labourers were forced to build a railway for the Japanese occupying forces.

Just had a lovely simple meal at the family establishment at the head of the soi (lane) leading to my guesthouse.  Wonton soup with noodles, and beer, all for $2.  The son of the family just emerged, homework complete, to get his Mum to sign it off, which she did in between cooking my dinner.  Lovely and friendly women operating that stall, ready with their smiles and few words of English.  Young men pull up on their motorcycles and order their dinner for that night.  Soon I will cross the soi for a coffee and dessert at the little cafe opposite.

Thais always eat out, as it is so cheap, and they don’t have kitchens at home, usually.

I am staying at a very simple guesthouse which is literally built out over the River Kwai.  For $10 I have my own room with bathroom built out over the river, the night air full with the sounds of frogs, crickets and mercifully free of some of the noise which often fills the Thai night air.  Disco barges do go up and down the river, pulling revellers dancing to the beat, and karaoke bars are everywhere.  Bangkokites, missing the deafening roar to which they lead their city lives, descend on places like this for the weekend and demand similar noise levels til all hours of the night.

I have spent a moving and fascinating day, leaving Bangkok early (8am) by bus for Kanchanaburi, but as Bangkok is so vast and unweildy, it took 2 hours and several changes of methods of transportation to reach the southern bus terminus.

At Kanchanburi allied POWs and thousands of slaves from Japan’s occupied Asian territories were forced to build a railway to link Bangkok with Rangoon, so that the Japanese army could advance westwards into India.   This objective was never quite completed, as allied bombing of the railway, and Japanese military reversals, meant it had to be abandoned before the end of the war.  The site is made famous by the bridge which spans the River Kwai, the building of which became the subject of a novel, and then David Lean’s 1957 movie.  The book and novel are pure fiction, however, as soon becomes apparent from a visit to the area.

The bridge is just 1km from my guesthouse and I have just returned from there after spending  a fascinating 2 hours exploring the many historic sites.  The bridge itself, the central portion having been blown up, was rebuilt after the war, though at least half of the remaining structure is original.  Evidence of allied bombing is still visible on the concrete pillars. I walked over the bridge and met an Australian family from Kalgoorie on holiday in Thailand.  A train crossed the river as I was on the bridge, tooting at the tourists to get out of the way.  An elephant on the other side of the river grazed peacefully in the gathering dusk.

Lastly I enjoyed a quiet beer on a restaurant barge adjacent to the bridge, watching the sun set and enjoying the relative peace at that historic place.

Earlier in the day, at the excellent Thailand-Burma Railway Museum (, I met the volunteer researcher (an Englishman, Derek Lawson) and we looked up all the New Zealanders who are buried at the Commonwealth War cemeteries hereabouts.  There are 11  of them,  navy and air force, captured in other parts of SE Asia and brought here.  We talked for quite some time and exchanged email addresses; I will follow up more about the NZers who are buried here once I return to NZ.    Derek’s story was fascinating.  His father was one of the POWs forced to work on the railway. He had never spoken of it until one day in 2005 he advised his son that he intended to travel to Thailand and visit the sites of his forced labour.  Derek had by then emigrated to Perth, and was living happily there.  He met his father at Kanchanaburi and was so moved by all that he saw here, that he decided on returning to Australia to sell his house and leave his job and move to this place and work in the Museum as a volunteer assisting relatives of the deceased POWs to find graves and more information about their son, brother, uncle, or father.

He has been working there for two years now and fields many inquiries from people who, for instance, know that their father is buried there in one of the cemeteries, but they know nothing about him.  In some cases the children whose fathers were shipped off to war before or soon after they were born, and who never saw their father, and their mother re-married, are seeking more information about their true father.  So it is very emotional for many, including Derek, who is named after the 21-year old best friend of his father, another Derek who lies buried in a dusty field in this place.

The research centre is very well organised.  Derek, on arrival, began to enter all the names which were in a folder, onto the computer, and to try to amass as much information about each man (or in a very cases, woman) as possible. So it was possible to quickly find all the New Zealanders.

This is an ongoing task. Boxes of unsorted material still lie in the Imperial War Museum and other institutions, waiting for someone to go through it and describe it.

The museum is  very well put together ; it describes in sometimes graphic detail the extraordinary deprivations and horrors that the POWs had to put up with at the cruel hands of the Japanese.  Diseases killed most; it is said that for every sleeper on the railway, one man died. Punishment for not working hard enough was severe, although at one time men were forced to work 18 hours per day, still on starvation rations of not much more than a small bowl of rice per day. How any survived at all, is incredible, and very few survived at the end who had been brought in at the beginning of the railway construction.  And remember the unbearable heat, insects, and a prickly thorn so sharp that the camp doctors used it as improvised needles or surgical instruments.

So it is very interesting not to say moving here; I was very moved in the war  cemetery opposite the museum where so many men are buried – 1000s of them – some as young as 18 or 19.  With heartbreaking messages from their mothers, wives, families.  The next day I looked again at the cemetery and found two New Zealand graves; how sad to see our silver fern there in that hot, strange and distant place.

There are other war cemeteries about this area, which really warrants a stay of two days or more to fully appreciate all that it has to offer.

Later I went to the night market in Kanchanaburi, where excellent local food and produce is sold very cheaply.

The next day, 20th January, I took the train over the death railway to the end of the line at Nam Tok.  The train itself is a decript old thing, slow,  pulled by a diesel locomotive not quite up to the task.  This part of the journey was full of tourists, our carriages were attached to the rest of the train, carrying locals, which arrived 45 minutes late from Bangkok. We chugged very slowly, in quite some heat, through numerous stations, each one bedecked with flowers and with its own guard who came out and blew on his whistle and waved various flags about.  One of the German tourists near me, an older man, collapsed in the heat.  His tour guides seemed helpless as to what to do; he staggered eventually to the very crude toilet where he again fell, hitting the metal toilet seat and gashing his head.  The reaction of the Thais was to charge about and jabber into their mobile phones, but still the train lurched on, and it was only when we reached the station where the tour bus was ready to meet them, that he got off with the rest of the party.  The poor man looked dreadful, not having received any first aid at all.

We lurched and juddered on for another 30 minutes through very beautiful scenery to Nam Tok, at the end of the line, quite high in the mountains near the Burmese border.  Past dragon-backed mountains, sweeping curves of the river, in many places flanked by massive stands of bamboo, golden, yellow and amber-tipped bamboo, and beautiful flowers.  At one stage the train passed through a very narrow cutting made by the POWS, so close I could reach a hand from the train and touch the rock, all hewn with the most basic of tools by the prisoners.  Most of the slaves were actually labour imported from Java, Burma and French Indo-China, and those men died in the tens of thousands, treated as completely sub-human by the Japs, with no records kept of their death or grave marked.

Oddly the Japanese did respect the deaths of the allied pows, attending their funerals and burials and even paying towards the cost.  In Kanchanaburi there is a large memorial erected by the Japanese to those who died building the railway; today, the small local Japanese population tends to this memorial.

By the time this train had reached Nam Tok, we were very late, so it immediately turned around (regrettably for me as it meant I had no time to look around) and began to lurch at the same crawl back to Kanchanaburi.  I intended to stay on the train for the return to Bangkok.  It was now very hot and dusty, and on wiping my face I saw that I was covered in black soot, from the diesel engine I supposed.  The windows were permanently open.  Tourists thinned out and various locals hopped on and off – children on the way home from school, a monk reading plans for a temple (or so it appeared, when I peeked), people headed to Bangkok on whatever business necessitated their trip, which is for locals, very cheap.  As Thais are immediately recognisable to other Thais, they receive lower prices or even free admission to many places.  So another Asian person who spoke Thai would still be detected as non-Thai, and asked to pay the foreigner price (though almost all Thais have some Chinese blood in them).

Horribly late, me tired, hungry and filthy from hours sitting on that train on the hard wooden seats, we eventually arrived at Thonburi station on the outskirts of Bangkok. I was too late now for the river boats that would have taken me back downtown, so had to catch a taxi to my hotel in Suriwong road where I had left my laundry, and then grabbed something to eat, I was so very hungry, before battling through the subway system to my other, cheaper hotel for that night.

Still, I was not complaining, when I think of what those who had built that railway had endured, or of the tiny children lying on the filthy, busy road at the entrance to the metro, begging for a few coins….we live in the most fortunate of circumstances.

Malang to Bandung

I am at an internet cafe in Bandung, West Java, the best I have found so far in my time in Java – non smoking, in a quiet street, and there are not many people here, in the middle of the day.
It’s hot outside despite this being another (like Malang) of Java’s cooler, hilltop spots.
Since last posting about my adventures I had a very interesting day on Tuesday visiting Surabaya. I took a morning train which was very hot and slow and packed, again, with Indonesia’s poorest, those who cannot afford private means of travel. One is not free of the hawkers on the trains – a steady procession come through throwing all manner of things into your lap – books, stuffed toys, food, drinks, anything at all – and come back later to see if you will buy it.
We did pull up at Gubeng station on time, and Dede Oetomo was there to greet me. He took me to a Baba (mixed Chinese and Malay) restaurant which is actually owned by his family, and has been for 40 years, where we had Javanese Baba food: I have to confess that until that point I had not even realised that there was a Baba (or Peranakan) culture in Java, but of course there is – Chinese and Javans intermarried as they did in Malaya. It was mainly Chinese men who emigrated to the Spice Islands and Malay Straits in search of work, 300 or more years ago, so it was local women with whom they raised children.
Just like Malaysia, and the subsequent story of how the Chinese were treated in post-independence Indonesia is similar to that in Malaya (and in fact by the Japanese) and is part of my understanding now of post-independence history. It was the Chinese who defended their human rights in both places, as they had to, as especially in Indonesia, they were taken away by the Republic in favour of discrimination for the Malays, and as they protested, so they were flung into various prisons, murdered by the hundreds of thousands by Suharto’s murderous regime, and were involved in various left wing or sometimes Communist parties as part of the resistance.

Some of this history is explained here:
I have been able to put all this picture together now by meeting some of Indonesia’s most important reform-minded people: those with whom I have an affinity, those who want to promote peace, justice, human rights, and are currently marginalised, but until quite recently have been imprisoned, tortured or even killed.
One of these men is Pak Oie, now in his 70s, who runs the Yayasan Medayu Agung, where Dede then took me. He was imprisoned on Buru, the hideous camp for political prisoners where thousands died due to appalling torture and maltreatment, with Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia’s most famous writer and activist for human rights (who died recently). The story of this library is connected with this struggle, because, like Pram, Pak Oie collected historical manuscripts and books, wrote, took an intellectual and political interest, and amassed a large private library of documents connected with East Java history and the Chinese in Java.
When Pak Oie was imprisoned on Buru, his collection was hidden in an attic by a friend, but half of it was destroyed or lost.
Slowly, over time and with support from wealthier members of the Chinese community in Surabaya, he was able to open a building for his library and it is now open to visitors like me. It was an incredible honour to meet him, and to be shown around the library by Pak Oie himself. I was permitted to open cabinets and browse. Most of the collection is in Indonesian, but there are many old books in Dutch and English as well as an extensive Chinese collection.
A small workforce of young men are employed to look after the collection, catagloguing on to a computer, binding damaged books, and so on. He also collects journals and newspapers from Surabaya and East Java. Quite a remarkable place, and full of fascination for someone like me.
I told him (Via Dede, my translater for the day) about the Charles story…maybe Pak Oie had known him, as he grew up in Malang in the 1930s, but he’d not heard of him.
It is faintly possible that some of Charles’ books are now in the collection,
as Oie bought books from second hand dealers in S’baya – and it was  those dealers to whom Mutmainah would have sold Charles’ books after his death.

When I mentioned that Charles was a Theosophist, Dede was immediately interested, and able to refer me (he is fantastically well connected) to someone writing a thesis on Theosophy in Java in the 1930s. This movement swept through Java in that decade, catching Charles’ interest, and in his letters to his sister Cesca, he talks about this (interestingly, Mut mentioned the name “Cesca” to me a few times on Sunday). There were books on this subject in the library, so it’s just possible they were his…

We spent a wonderful two hours there browsing, talking about history, gay politics (Dede is Indonesia’s most prominent gay activist and runs the organisation Gaya Nusantara, which mainly runs health promotion campaigns), history, philosophy and so forth. The role of the Chinese in Indonesia.

With Dede and Pal Oie at the library

With Dede and Pal Oie at the library

Dede is Chinese too, or Baba rather, and his family, he said, were “very odd” for Java, not insisting on any religion and encouraging free thought and expression and for him to develop his interests as much as possible. He went to Cornell to do his thesis on the Baba Creole language, his sort of “home tongue”, which is still spoken in Java.

Pak Oie had to close the library so Dede took me to a nearby mall, which consisted of 3 floors of little shops selling handphones and raucous noise from TV screens. I found one place that sold decent coffee. I had to wait around to meet my other contact, Dukut Iman Widodo, amateur local historian and sort of local equivalent of me – has to do a regular job but is an enthusiast for Surabaya and Malang, Lawang, etc history – as was his grandfather.
Dukut Widodo works as a manager in a mining company at Gresik, about an hour from his house in Surabaya (which is not far from the library), so he did not get home until 7pm. So I had to take a taxi to his house – by now it was dark and very wet – and I was very fortunate in finding both an honest taxi driver and one who knew the street (another time I will explain about streets here, which can be very difficult to locate) – I turned up at the same time as him but he had already asked his wife to prepare cakes and tea.
He was completely fascinated by the story of Charles, and he took me upstairs to his study, lined with books, historical artifacts, photographs, where we had an animated hour and a half talking about the story.
Mr Widodo speaks good English and has a very nice house; he is 54 and his 3 grown up children are working in professional roles now too.
A thoroughly charming and delightful man.
He has published several books on Surabaya and Malang history,and knows Pak Oie well of course, working collaboratively with him on his books which he publishes and sells himself.

Imam Widodo in his study at his house in Surabaya

Imam Widodo in his study at his house in Surabaya

Email addresses and contacts exchanged with all these gentlemen for ongoing research and exchange of information.

His driver was instructed to drive me to Purabaya bus station, where he personally escorted me to the coach waiting for Malang, and in 90 minutes I was back there again. I had an unpleasant experience there, on a mikrolet, where the driver was insistent that I pay him far more than the tariff, and he physically intimidated me until I paid up. Given the late hour, I wanted a taxi, but I could not find one.
It was all very confused and it was only later that I worked out what exactly had happened and why he was so angry – it had all felt very safe and normal up to that point, but it suddenly turned very nasty – very frighteningly so, actually, where I was afraid I was going to be beaten up.
I paid over some money with trembling hands and walked as briskly as I could to the hotel – even then, becak drivers, a few of them still in the alun alun, called out “hello mister, becak?” Sheesh!!

Felt a bit disturbed by that incident, probably the nastiest thing to happen to me in all my travels, and it’s made me less friendly, more reluctant to use my Bahasa, as I think it is better to stay labelled as “tourist” and use the cover of ignorance; going a step further seems to be risky. Now I feel a bit sad, because I realise what a gulf of understanding can divide people because of language and culture. Having a few words of Bahasa is nowhere near good enough.

Andarwati wanted to take me to a nice place near the river on Weds morning so she met me at my hotel, and we drove out to a very exclusive housing estate where there is a golf course and a beautiful restaurant, where we had an excellent breakfast.  It was exquisite and a sort of oasis.

I met her sister, who is a doctor, who had taken an hour from work to meet me as she was curious, a beautiful woman, and we then went back to her house where she gave me some things made by native peoples from Kalimantan which she had collected on a recent trip.

I was collected at my hotel at 11 by “travel”, which is a local word meaning an SUv-type car that carries for or 5 people with a driver, who will take you whereever you want to go – in my case Surabaya airport.  We passed through the area where mud and gas is pouring out of the ground at 500,000 tons of mud a day.  It is an utter disaster area; thousands of homes have been pushed out of the way by the spreading mud, and the company responsible has built an immense retaining wall on the side facing the highway, but elsewhere it is just everywhere.  The gas is so poisonous that people are dying, and the ground is now subsiding, and only one Monday another house collapsed, fortunately just as the occupants left it.

Thousands of people were walking about in this miserable scene from some horrible novel, the mud right up to some houses now, some boys pushing it about in barrows, and the highway now so congested that the driver paid to use a side road to go through the village currently affected, so I had a close-up view of the utter devastation and misery: what a horror!!

The irony was that, as we paid again to exit the side road (no doubt a source of income for someone, but that tiny village road now infested with vehicles, as if they did not have enough to put up) all the vehicles like us trying to merge with the highway caused more congestion, so we had to pay another guy to walk out it the highway and stop the cars for us, which is i notice a common source of employment here.

Finally to the airport – took 3 hours – and by the time for boarding there was an immense monsoon downpour.  We had to board outside, so a bus was called in and took us to the base of the steps, but a huge amount of water had collected inside the plane by having the door open.  It was an elderly 737 – 300, and then the captain said the navigation system had failed, so we had to return to the airport.  More waiting around, while that was fixed, and finally, an hour and a half late, we took off for Bandung.

Got a taxi to my hotel is old and a bit grotty and the breakfast was foul.

Went out to find something edible.  At Surabaya airport, there is a very good bookshop, and there I found Paramoeda’s memoir translated into English!

Amazing, as his books have been banned in Indonesia until recently.  I’ve started to read it, extraordinarily horrific though  it is, about his time on Bulu, but it is giving me a good insight into the times.

Indonesia also recently banned Youtube entirely because there were some videos on there critical of the government.  Religiosu matters seem to be quite relaxed here though – the Moslem girls are much more chatty and relaxed and friendly than in Malaya, and not all of them wear the head scarf.

I looked over the Museum dedicated to the  Non Aligned Movement Conference held in Bandung in 1955: quite propagandistic,  and an exhbiition on Papua presented the Indonesian occupation of that province as liberating it from colonialism rather than applying a new colonialism, but there was some historical justification presented.

Flying on to BAngkok tomorrow where, planes and all else going well, I will be by about 10pm Friday nz time

Happy trails