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Andrew Dickens: A message to the Turkish President - it's about the 50, not you

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 21 March 2019, 12:21PM
Photo / NZME

It’s been a long week. One of the longest I’ve ever experienced in talkback because of the roller coaster ride of our feelings that have triggered by the events of less than a week ago.

In each three hour session, the basic topic has been the same, the Christchurch Mosque Massacre. But under that broad headline has been a myriad of big topics. It’s been rugged.

The last half hour of yesterday’s show is a case in point.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had given her daily press conference announcing two minutes of silence to be held on Friday, and then took questions from the media which has now be swollen by foreign correspondents. A British voice asked her to criticise Donald Trump. She refused, saying it was about New Zealand and the victims and Christchurch.

Then she was asked to answer back to the words of President Erdoğan of Turkey. Again she demurred, saying her focus was Christchurch. It was a moment when a wee bit of the shine went off our glittering PM. All of a sudden the talkback turned and we had calls calling her weak. Which I totally understood.

What President Erdoğan said about New Zealanders and Australians was beyond the pale. To show the killer's video at an election campaign meeting is disgusting. To tell his people that Anzacs were coming and if they wanted to do what a lone nutter did in Christchurch, then they will be sent home in caskets just like their grandfathers is unbelievably provocative. To do this a month before Anzac Day was worse than foolhardy. It was reckless, dangerous and frankly unhinged.

What upsets me most is that what President Erdoğan said can’t be unsaid. There are 80 million people in Turkey, 98 per cent of them are Muslim. Let's just say one per cent of them are crazy and deranged then that’s 800,000 people who have just been given an idea for revenge.

Erdoğan’s reply has been an opinion piece published in The Washington Post saying nice things about us. That’s not good enough. I bet he didn’t even write it. Winston Peters reply was that it wasn’t a New Zealander that committed the atrocity but an Australian. Scott Morrison must have been thinking, "gee thanks, mate". Winston is visiting Turkey and is going to give someone a stern talking to. I doubt he’ll get anywhere near Erdoğan

I would have liked Jacinda Ardern to have said to President Erdoğan that he needs to apologise out of his own mouth, and talk to his people and ensure that they are calm because if anything happens next month then it will be all his responsibility.

I would have liked her to say what a Turk said on twitter, that The President of the Republic of Turkey, by replying to the deranged words of a racist murderer, actually enhanced his so-called manifesto and elevated him. But she didn’t.

Then the talkback turned again and our final caller of the day wanted to get stuck into all Islam. So I hung up. It was the wrong time. And this is why this week is so exhausting

Because at that very moment, a person was being buried at the Memorial Cemetery. The third of 50. The scenes I’ve seen of yesterday were extraordinary. Crowds of Muslims, swirling dust, bodies swaddled in cloth, carried on shoulders. Survivors in wheelchairs.

Shame on Erdoğan. Shame on that last caller. The Prime Minister may have been weak but she was also right. It’s not even a week. They’re not even buried. It’s still about Christchurch. It's still about the survivors. It's still about the 50 and their families.

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