23 May 2024

Hunger striker sceptical after meeting with Foreign Affairs officials to discuss Gaza

10:48 pm on 23 May 2024
Shortland Street actor Will Alexander

Will Alexander hasn't consumed any calories for six days. Photo: Supplied / Will Alexander

A former Shortland Street actor protesting New Zealand's response to the Gaza conflict says he is not convinced a meeting with government officials will change anything.

Will Alexander has not consumed any calories for six days and says he will not eat until the government meets his three demands.

He wants the coalition to pull New Zealand troops from the Red Sea and maintain, then double, its contributions for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Alexander met with two senior advisors to Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and a senior official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Thursday.

"We talked about these three demands and where the New Zealand government is at with those," Alexander said.

"We focused mainly on UNRWA and why we haven't funded UNRWA sooner when other countries like Japan, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland and most of the countries who withdrew their funding from UNRWA have actually reinstated it after a UN report saying that the allegations made by Israel against UNRWA were baseless."

Israel had accused at least 12 workers at UNRWA - the UN agency for Palestinian refugees - of being involved in the 7 October attack by Hamas.

"I was saying we need to bring that funding forward because UNRWA doesn't need it in June, or late June, they need it now," Alexander said.

"It's already having effects on the ground in Rafah. They've stopped distributing aid in Rafah because of a lack of supplies so they need our funding now."

Peters has not made a decision on whether New Zealand's next contribution to UNRWA will go ahead on 30 June.

"All that's standing in between us making that funding payment is Winston Peters assessing a report. It's an internal investigation, is what they've said, but really it's just a bureaucratic process that we need to fast track."

Alexander was not convinced Thursday's meeting made a difference.

"I feel as though they did a lot of nodding and smiling and writing things down, however, I don't know whether it will have made any difference or whether the message will have got through."

In a post on X, Peters said the meeting reflected his views that the right to protest was sacrosanct, the country benefited from the public being engaged in foreign policy and political leaders had a responsibility to listen to everyone's voice.

"This meeting was intended for Mr Alexander to express his views to representatives of the minister and for him to hear in return the New Zealand government's approach to the issues he has raised in recent days about the Middle East," the post read.

Alexander said his hunger strike would continue.

"I'll keep hunger striking. I'll carry on and hopefully we see it make a difference soon. I'm only six days in at the moment and hopefully when I'm quite unwell this will put more pressure on them."

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