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July 26, 2005
A bill to make New Zealand's tour to Zimbabwe illegal was rejected by the country's Parliament in Wellington today. However, a Labour Government motion calling on New Zealand Cricket (NZC) to cancel the trip and asking the ICC to stop all international tours to Zimbabwe "while gross human rights abuses continue" was passed 110 votes to 10.
The team departed yesterday and the parliamentary action was a symbolic one as the ICC has made it clear that NZC can only escape a US$2million penalty for not playing if the government makes it illegal to tour. The Green Party tried to submit the appropriate bill but it was blocked and the move was quashed by the prime minister Helen Clark. "Abrogating these rights is not an option for us," Clark was quoted by AAP. "Freedom of passage to and from this country is a basic right enjoyed by New Zealanders."
However, security issues could force the tour to be aborted and Clark told Parliament the team would face potential problems in Zimbabwe. "One cannot rule out a country in such crisis being a danger to people who visit, like cricketers, who can end up in the wrong place at the wrong time or in a place where there are violent demonstrations," she said. "I consider it personally unwise to go."
Martin Snedden, the NZC chief executive, said they have a contractual obligation to tour under the ICC Future Tours Programme. "The Parliamentary motion does not change this," he said. "The consequences of not touring are open ended and would be disastrous to all levels of the game of cricket in New Zealand."
Rob Donald, the Green Party co-leader, said the players would become pawns in the Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe's power game. "Unless the tour is called off," Donald said, "this will be seen as nothing more than waving a wet bus ticket at Mugabe."
New Zealand are scheduled to play a two-Test series against Zimbabwe and they arrive on August 4 after a training camp in Namibia. A triangular one-day tournament involving India is also planned.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Plays of the Day from second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan, in Port Elizabeth
Plays of the Day from the third ODI between India and West Indies, in Kanpur