Home' Greymouth Star : December 14th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Monday, December 14, 2015
slamic State’s attack on Paris has
triggered shifts in great power
strategy in the Middle East, but
just as significant for Europeans
may be change afoot inside an
office block near Brussels’ Gare du
The Belgian capital was home to some of
the Paris attackers and a logistical planning
base for the operation. D ubbed by some
‘Jihad Central’, the city was locked down
for days for fear local radicals could strike
Now, stung by international accusations
that underfunding and political in-fighting
had left its security services the weakest
link in Europe’s counter-terrorism defences,
Belgium is ploughing resources into an
intelligence agency that faces the biggest
concentration of Syria-linked militants in
Staffing for the Surete de l’Etat (State
Security), of which little is publicly known
beyond its address in an anonymous
Federal government office building near
Brussels’ northern rail terminus, could
rise by a quarter, according to government
budget projections reviewed by Reuters.
And for the first time in memory,
Belgium has plans to send its spies abroad,
the Justice Ministry confirmed in response
to a question.
Belgian security chiefs have repeatedly
complained that they cannot handle up to
900 home-grown Islamist militants, among
the highest per capita rates in Europe —
and certainly not with existing funds.
However, it took a foiled attack, including
a shoot-out in the eastern town of Ver viers,
in January to reverse a planned budget
cut and release $212 million of security
spending. The Paris attacks led to a further
$424 million package last month.
Quite how many people work in Belgian
intelligence is itself a State secret, unlike
most western peers, but there is evidence it
is under-resourced compared to European
Lars Bove, the author of a book on
Belgium’s secret ser vice, says it has around
600 staff, with some 500 in intelligence. The
budget was set to have been cut this year,
but after Verviers, was raised 20%.
Neighbouring the Netherlands spends
much more, even accounting for its larger
size. Its AIVD agency employs some 1500
people and had $349m to spend this year,
including a $41m boost mainly to target
some 220 Dutch jihadists believed to have
gone to fight in Syria or Iraq.
“The same kinds of comparisons can be
made for different countries like France and
Germany,” Bove said
Some foreign observers have labelled
Belgium a failed state, split between Dutch
and French speakers and focused on local
Prime Minister Charles Michel himself,
in power for the past year only, has rejected
criticism, especially in the French media,
but said measures taken at the start of the
year were not enough.
“We need to do more and we need to do
it better,” he said.
The patchwork country of 11 million
people has six parliaments for its regions
and linguistic communities, 193 local
police forces and 19 autonomous mayors in
Anyone looking for proof of how such
devolution can affect policies assumed in
most of the world to be the domain of
national government had only to observe
Michel’s discomfort attending last week’s
United Nations climate summit in Paris.
Rare among wealthy nations, Belgium
lacked an agreed plan on global warming
— because Flemings and Walloons could
Within hours of the attacks in Paris being
traced back, at least in part, to a network of
young men from the Moroccan immigrant
community in the Brussels borough of
Molenbeek, Flemish and French-speaking
Belgian politicians were pointing fingers of
blame at each other for failing to curb the
The interior minister, a Flemish
nationalist, was criticising the fact Brussels,
a city of just 1.2m, has six autonomous
police forces. The French-speaking liberal
mayor of Molenbeek was complaining of
a lack of resources to track 85 suspected
militants in her borough alone — and
criticising her socialist long-time
predecessor for being soft on radical imams.
While there is no hard evidence of
intelligence and tip-offs falling between
the cracks before the Paris attacks, the
limitations of the Surete security service
have come to light. One of the suicide
bombers, Bilal Hadfi, 20, returned from
fighting in Syria and the intelligence
services decided to bug his apartment to
check his network.
But he failed to show up at the apartment
he had been registered at, and so could not
Proposals to force those returning from
Syria to wear electronic tags have also run
into problems. A strike by those responsible
for fitting the ankle bracelets in Flanders
led the regional government to cut back on
the programme, to the irritation of Federal
Alain Winants, head of the intelligence
service from 2006 until 2014, said
politicians had appeared apathetic to his
former service until the start of the year.
He gave the example of when it planned
a presentation about Syria fighters for
the previous government — not a single
minister showed up.
“It gave us the impression that there was a
certain lack of interest,” he said.
The ser vice also had had to rely on
publicly available sources and informants
and its close ties with Moroccan agents
working inside the country until 2010 when
it finally was cleared to tap telephones, hack
computers or check bank accounts.
“ We must have been one of the last
services in Europe, if not in the world,
to obtain modern measures to gather
information, such as telephone taps,”
Even now, as Prime Minister Michel
noted when he announced changes after
the Paris attacks, Belgian police have not
been allowed to make house searches after
9pm. That genteel piece of legislation
is now going to be eliminated while
prosecutors will get up to three days not 24
hours to hold suspects in custody.
The former intelligence chief said he
warned the government about inadequate
resources and said funding had reached
“a bottom line”, with 100-150 new staff
A year on from his departure, his wish
may be granted.
Extra funds agreed in 2015 have allowed
the service to recruit 45 people, with
selection ongoing for a further 28.
Michel pledged in the week after Paris
a security crackdown on Islamist violence,
including bans on hate preachers, jailing
of returning Syrian fighters and tagging
Belgium, he said, would pump an extra
$656 million into policing and justice,
with a special focus on intelligence, with
further recruitment and spending on speech
recognition technology or cameras that can
recognise vehicle number plates.
Belgium’s justice minister is also looking
into allowing the secret service to place
officers abroad for the first time.
“ We are for the moment a purely internal
defensive service,” said Winants, adding it
was not realistic to have no foreign officers.
“I think it ’s necessary, without becoming an
action ser vice like the CIA.”
Evan Lawrence, a counter-terrorism
and security specialist at the University of
Central Lancashire, said it made sense to
have operatives abroad for direct human
intelligence, although since the 2004
Madrid bombings international sharing of
information had vastly improved.
“U ltimately though you need more focus
on stopping people becoming radicalised.
You need specific goals. By the time you
throw money at the ser vices you’ve lost the
battle,” she said. — Reuters
Belgian soldiers and police officers stand guard at ‘Winter Wonders’, a Christmas market in central Brussels, Belgium, following tight security measures linked to the fatal
attacks in Paris.
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
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welcome your opinion and suggestions.
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uLetters to the editor
1799 - Death of George Washington, first
president of the United States (1789-1797).
1861 - Prince Albert, consort and husband
of Queen Victoria, dies of typhoid at Windsor
1907 - Canterbury, which had
been presented a shield for cricket
competition by Governor-General
Lord Plunket, begins a three-day
match against Auckland in the first
defence of what became known as
the Plunket Shield. Auckland won
by an innings and 135 runs.
1911 - Nor wegian explorer Roald
Amundsen becomes the first man to reach the
1918 Women in Britain vote for the first time
in a general election and are allowed to stand
1920 - The first fatalities on a scheduled
passenger flight occur when an aircraft crashes
into a house, killing the two-person crew and
two passengers at Cricklewood, London.
1947 -Death of three-times British prime
minister Stanley Baldwin.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Nostradamus, French astrologer and prophet
(1503-1566); James Bruce, Scottish explorer
(1730-1794); King George VI (1895-1952);
Ron Jarden, All Black (1929-1977);
Lee Remick, US actress (1935-
1991); Hal Williams, US actor
(1938-); Patty Duke, US actress
(1946-); Rebecca Gibney, New
Zealand actress (1964-); Vanessa
Hudgens, American singer and
“ You can close your eyes to reality but not to
memories. ” — Stanislaw J Lec, Polish author
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a
dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not
be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the
child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
— (Matthew 1:20).
One of the biggest
crowds in Greymouth
for a long time
a Mackay Street store on Saturday morning.
Most of the crowd were children, and the
occasion was the spectacular arrival of Santa
Claus at Harley ’s. The bewhiskered gentleman,
led by the Greymouth Municipal Band, was
driven in a decorated sleigh drawn by Mr
Phil Duffy’s deer Jimmy, who has become a
common sight in town streets at Christmas
Santa ariived in an impressive parade which
included the band, vintage cars, decorated
bicycles, a fire engine and ponies. The firm
donated prizes for the best decorated bicycles.
The boys’ division was won by Ray Parkinson.
Winner of the girls’ section was Susan Craze.
Today 11 people sat down to meals of corned
beef, mustard sauce, cabbage, carrots and
potatoes. For dessert they had bread and butter
custard. These were not just ordinary Monday
meals. They were the first in a meals on wheels
ser vice designed to help Greymouth’s elderly.
The meals were transported by two private
cars from the Greymouth Hospital shortly
before midday. They were carried in large
metal containers. Meals will be delivered from
Monday to Friday including statutory holidays.
The Post Office has taken a stand against at
least one Greymouth resident who has refused
to pay his £6 10s television licence. A radio
inspector arrived at his home and promptly
sealed his set. The owner’s protests about
“getting money under false pretences” were
given no sympathy by local officials.
He is also liable for a £50 fine.
uFood for thought
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I would like to thank my wonderful
supporters for the help given to me over
the past two years to represent the West
Coast as an MP in the National-led
I would also like to thank the community
for the over whelming positive response
I have received since confirmation of my
appointment. Your support is appreciated
and I give you my assurance that I will
work hard for you.
Thank you also to the Greymouth
Star for covering the news I will enter
Parliament in February as a list MP and
the positive comments from other locals
welcoming the region being represented
by three MPs.
I am very proud of my record ser ving
the West Coast region as Westland mayor
and I look for ward to continuing that as
an MP. I will be a strong advocate for both
Tasman and the Coast regions at a time
when we desperately need it.
The National-led Government is
committed to helping our region get ahead
and I will be a strong voice advocating for
more opportunities to help diversify and
grow our economy.
Our local media plays a huge part in
creating an atmosphere of optimism
and hope so I look for ward to the paper
reporting more positive stories in the
National list MP
Though your column I would like to
say how very disappointed I am with
the ser vice I am getting from Spark’s
broadband ser vice after several calls to
them and having to wait for up to two
hours to get to speak to someone, then I
get someone who cannot speak English
well in the Philippines, and refuses to
put me though to someone here in New
I have had the problem with my
broadband dropping off all the time for
over a week now. I have put two new
modems on my computer and still the
same, I have had technicians out and
they say my line is okay, I have had my
computer looked at and it is okay, as it is
only one month old. Then Spark says ‘it is
your modem’. When they just gave me a
new one I put the new modem on without
plugging it in to my computer and I still
get the drop-off — no broadband light.
Spark will not admit that they have got a
problem with their broadband — all they
want is my money, and run. They will not
respond to complaints.
My question now is, why can we not
ring and speak to someone here in New
Recently the New Zealand Drillers
Federation (NZDF) held their annual
conference in Greymouth.
We wish to publicly acknowledge, thank
and recommend the two conference
venues, Shantytown and Monteith’s
Brewery. Both of these businesses
provided excellent advice and support
in the planning phase and outstanding
ser vice delivery throughout the conference.
Since the conference we have received
many congratulatory e-mails from
delegates. One life member stated it was
the best drilling conference he had been to
in 40 years.
We can assure readers, in fact we would
encourage you all, to recommend to
your national organisations to consider
Greymouth as the next conference
location for any group or business you
belong to. Shantytown and Monteith’s,
and many other Coast businesses can and
do provide first-class venues and event
If we all consider the various
organisations we belong to, imagine how
the Coast economy could benefit if these
organisations were to hold their next
annual general meeting, seminar, social
event or conference here on the Coast? It
is not just the $50,000 to $100,000 that is
spent on food, transport, accommodation
and entertainment during a conference,
but the further discretionary spending
on day trips, souvenirs, local shopping,
partner’s programmes etc which benefit so
many other Coast businesses.
Let 2016 be the year we all make the
effort to promote the Coast as the most
scenic, hospitable and unique region for
bringing people together.
Judi and Ken Mears
Westmere Drilling Ltd
Why on earth people who love horror
films or get their kicks from obscene trash
videos, or sadistic fans watch that filth The
Hunger Games, I will never know. We
are inundated by festering ‘reality’ stuff,
like watching that fathead Bear Grylls
‘alone on a mountain, dying of thirst ’ (I
wish), giving us a taste of desert island
life — when all the time he knows the
omnipresent chuck wagon will overfeed all
the so-called sur vivors, and medical staff
are always on hand. It is not realistic at all.
We are glutted with disgust at some
fat judge who looks over a poor chef ’s
attempt at a dish and pronounces it ‘unfit
to eat ’. ‘Chuck it out,’ he says, while in
New Zealand the homeless sleep rough
in the streets and the number of beggars
grows by the minute — how obscene. And
Fonterra extorts a swingeing price for milk
so that it is taken from babes’ mouths to be
replaced by sugar.
No, tv watchers all, if you want to be
horrified, titillated, stimulated, then watch
the news. On screen, every time, same
time, same news — the most disgusting
reality of all.
See our so-called leader prepared to
waste $60 million of taxpayers’ dollars on
a new brand to entice offshore investors
to come here and show us how to add
cement to our babies’ milk; and lie like
flatfish as to who actually shot down in
flames innocent people. Why watch out
for baddies while tyrants thrive and their
own countrymen die in the dust like
Truly, with our young obsessed by
violent video games and all of New
Zealand run by the poison-pushing
alcohol industry; everyone here is hell
bent on winning Lotto and being able to
emulate public ser vants and spin-doctors
on sky-high salaries, and so live like hogs
with both feet in the trough.
L A Elphick
The recent article on reduction in
serious hospital adverse events is another
example of fanciful interpretation of
health monitoring data (Greymouth Star,
December 4). Apparently there were only
seven adverse events for the year — two
maternal adverse events (two involved
babies), two falls and one surgical
It is hard to conceal uncommon serious
incidents involving babies, maternity care
or falls within the hospital. However,
reporting the case does not mean the
avoidable errors have been disclosed. Just
one reported surgical complication for
the entire year is, in my view, evidence of
gross under-reporting and means the data
is unreliable and useless.
Acute medical admissions form the
largest group of unplanned admissions,
the most likely group for adverse events.
Diagnostic errors or delays, and treatment
delays, inadequacies, administration
errors or side effects are not rare. Similar
factors can be involved in avoidable
harm in medical management of surgical
patients. Lack of inclusion of even a
single event questions the reliability of
The fear of retribution in a corrupt work
environment may be another possible
reason for reduced reporting. Internal and
external investigations are known to have
been corrupted to make adverse outcomes
appear normal. Misleading evidence
and reports can be provided in different
ways. It was only earlier this year that the
coroner was led to believe that a death
resulting from medication errors was due
to natural causes.
Often, errors occur when a problem
is outside the expertise of the clinician
and usually recognised by someone else.
Reduction of available local expertise
and obstruction of appropriate clinical
supervision has contributed to failure in
recognition of avoidable errors.
Faulty incident investigations has
allowed what was once negligence to
become part of accepted standards,
another reason for not reporting.
A reduction in reporting does not
necessarily mean a reduction of adverse
Weak link gets tough
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