Am I in a frenzied minority when I express disquiet about the Coronial enquiry being undertaken over the recent few months following the two Mosque attacks?
I don’t think there was a person I know who didn’t grieve for those
poor souls cut down by an extremist’s gun. How we poured out our awhi to their whanau and their faith journey. We stood alongside them as they cried, and we cried with them. As a city we expressed our grieve through the massive floral tribute outside the Botanic gardens and the silent human circle protecting the call for prayers in Hagley park.
We were proud of our police and our ambulance personnel. They were brave and they acted as best they could. The two out of town cops who caught that murderer acted in an exceptional manner. Our hearts went out to the individuals who selflessly assisted the injured and the dying. The ambulance staff wondering if the gunman was still present, courageously entered a terrifying place and tended to those who desperately needed attention. Other members of the public assisted with the rescue, transporting people to the hospital.
It was a nightmare setting and our support services went beyond the call of duty to do the right thing.
Now, we have a Coronial enquiry which questioning the confidence and the professionalism of those who did their best on the day, and those that followed.
Below is an opinion piece in the Press recently Mike Ardagh, a Professor of Emergency Medicine at Otago University. Mike was in the Intensive Care Unit at CDHB (remember that great organisation…) on the day of the massacre. I have not cut out any part of this writing as every word makes a point. Mike wrote:
A coronial inquest into the terrible terrorist attacks at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, is an important way to determine the facts, to learn, and to better plan to prevent and manage potential future events. These, of course, are worthy and important objectives.
Inquest and inquisition are words that appear to mean largely similar things although, at least in my mind, the former implies a collaborative exploration and the latter a confrontational interrogation.
Which best describes this coronial inquest? While many folk are taking the stand and being interrogated, the only criminal associated with this event isn’t one of them.
Instead, those on the stand seem to be good people, who did a great job under difficult circumstances. Indeed, their actions were often heroic. In addition, their experiences are already causing many of them significant mental distress.
Is it right, or even useful, to put them in front of the world and suggest they were too slow, too confused, otherwise deficient, or even biased, in their decision making?
I concede that I, like most people observing the inquest, am doing so through a media filter, which might not be a balanced representation. However, what I am seeing emphasises two fundamental problems with this process.
First, a retrospective consideration undertaken in the cold light of day, is very different to decision making in a prospective and rapidly evolving context, confounded by considerable uncertainty.
Understanding the contrast between deliberations based on appreciating the prospective and evolving context, and those based on the retrospective certainty of what happened and how, is vitally important so that undue criticism is avoided.
Second, the adversarial and confrontational nature of the inquest does not appear to be well suited to examining events of this sort.
First, it is based on winning an argument, rather than finding the facts. Second, it is unfair and, frankly, mean.
The good people subjected to this approach are not criminals nor accused of criminal acts, and many are already significantly distressed by the events they experienced. A more collaborative exploration might not only be more user-friendly but would probably gather more useful information.
I was in the Emergency Department at Christchurch Hospital that day and I remember it well. Most of all I remember good people doing excellent things under very, very unusual circumstances.
However, I wasn’t out there amid the danger and the uncertainty. I wasn’t trying to make sense of the unfathomable, control the overwhelming, nor build a plan on a foundation of uncertainty, rumour, and conjecture. What a hell of a job faced many people, including our front-line emergency services.
And, under the circumstances, they did a hell of a job. Let’s not forget that.
I have heard that many of the people who represent the best of our support services are leaving the enquiry devastated. Taken apart by the confrontational style of the coronial proceedings..
I remember the wise words from Farid Ahmed after his wife, Husna, was shot dead by the gunman. Farid said, as he addressed a crowd of around 23,000 people at the National Remembrance Service in Hagley Park.
“I don’t want to have a heart that is boiling like a volcano,” he said.
“That’s why I have chosen peace. I have chosen love and I have forgiven.”
Frank Film reported in a documentary that:
Ahmed’s message of forgiveness spread across the globe. He has meet with world leaders, been honoured with an international peace award while speaking at the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, and continues to call for peace on the global stage.
“I had never imagined that one word is so powerful – forgiveness. Forgiveness is the result of just common sense. If we just question ourselves, what is going to benefit me in the future? Anger or forgiveness?”
It seems that the Court process has ignored the wise words of this compassionate leader in our society. At the time of the gathering of grief, where we were seen as an example to the world, we listened to this man, and forgave. Often despite our personal misgivings about this.
Now, we appear to be tearing apart good, decent, people with inquisitorial style, asking what seems to be stupid questions like “could you have been 5 minutes earlier” and the like. How would we feel if we had to decide whether to enter a place where a mass murderer could still be present? What if there were several killers? They didn’t know.
I have found the whole exercise distasteful and would like to wish all those grieving survivors and responders, who have been torn apart by the coronial process all the best. Don’t give up because you have been treated badly in a court room.
To all our city’s first responders we respect and need your services and your amazing commitment to assisting us in our hour of need. I salute you and thank you for being who you are and who you were on that dreadful day when we needed you so badly.
It’s surely not a time for utu, so I conclude with a quote from Farid again:
……..what is going to benefit me in the future? Anger or forgiveness?”