COMMENT: Two weeks from today, New Zealanders will be quietly gathering for Anzac Day services but not in as many communities as usual. Police have asked that fewer events be scheduled so that they can provide the level of security they have maintained since a gunman went into two Christchurch mosques and opened fire on defenceless people at Friday prayers nearly four weeks ago.
New Zealand's national terror threat level was officially raised to high after the massacre and remains there. We do not know if any specific threats to Anzac Day services have been received. If they have, the public ought to be told. If there is reason for people to be fearful of attending an Anzac Day service, they ought not be kept in ignorance of it.
But the police's Auckland City district commander, Superintendent Karyn Malthus, has said she had no information to suggest there was a "specific risk" to the safety of the public on Anzac Day. She explained that "in the current environment, police are continuing to provide a visible presence nationwide for the safety and reassurance of the community."
If the only reason the police are still carrying highly visible firearms at public events, and curtailing Anzac Day observances, is to provide "reassurance" for the community, it might be time for them to think again. Terrorism succeeds when a community is afraid to go about its normal life. There is no sign of that sort of fear among the general public and no reason there would be. One man stands accused of the murders in Christchurch and police are confident he acted alone.
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Muslims have returned to their mosques, multi-cultural events have resumed and New Zealanders' outpouring of sympathy and support for its Muslim community has been an example to the world. The risk of a retaliatory action seems very low.
The only sour note in the nation's embrace of its Islamic community has been opposition in some quarters to a proposal to include a reading from the Koran at an RSA dawn service at Titahi Bay. Sadly that idea was quickly dropped when some veterans protested. Surely that has not caused the police to be on alert for trouble on a scale that warrants the cancellation of so many Anzac Day services this year.
Only 26 will be held throughout the Auckland region. Last year there were 84. Families who have previously gone to their local cenotaph will need to drive or take public transport some distance to the nearest service. Something of value in New Zealand life has been diminished and it becomes hard to deny the shooter in Christchurch has achieved a part of his destructive purpose.
The police ought not to be giving him this satisfaction without good reason. Public reassurance is not one. The reassurance the public needs is that the crime is being dealt with and normal life has resumed. On that score it will be more reassuring when the police put away their military-style weapons. They make the force look belatedly prepared for the last threat to public safety - not the next one.
Unless they know of a threat to Anzac Day, the police should let New Zealand honour its fallen as usual without fear.