Native Affairs reporter relieved to be home

By Taroi Black
  • Auckland

Native Affairs' reporter Ruwani Perera has arrived safely home after being detained by Israeli forces during a humanitarian aid mission.

Perera and cameraman Jacob Bryant were on one of the Freedom Flotilla boats following a group of Palestinian activists trying to the break through the Gaza blockade.

She was welcomed home this morning with open arms.

Perera says, “Yeah, I’m very pleased to be back in Tāmaki Makaurau.  I'm crying actually, I’m quite happy.  They're tears of relief.”

Ruwani Perera was given her passport back with her detention ID number attached on the back.

“That last boarding was like 23 hours when we got to the jail.  It was like a jail, and not knowing how many days it was going to be.  There's no stamps on my passport,” says Perera.

The Native Affairs crew, Perera and cameraman Jacob Bryant, were on board an international Flotilla that tried to break through the Gaza blockade to deliver aid.  Four days ago, the Israeli Navy made its move.

Perera says, “Being woken up at 1am and that's when the first siren went off that they were coming.  It was pretty scary and that we had done all our drills and we had done that and we had practised it in March.  We got on with it. In the middle of the night it's pretty spooky and they've got masks on and they're the full deal.  They have machine guns, they are the full quid.

There were like 80 of them to our sort of 13 activists, so it was an overkill.  We had war ships, we had helicopters, black walks and everything.”

Israeli authorities claimed all on board were treated well, bringing out the media when their boat was towed into the port of Ashdod near Tel Aviv.

Perera says, “It was staged. There were cameras everywhere and you felt like a superstar getting off that boat.  They were all taking photos and saying "Would you like food, would you like drinks?"  They wanted to show you that they were treating you well but yes, the searches we did beg to differ, the fact they won't give me back my phone.”

Cameraman Jacob Bryant has also been released.  But rather than return home, he headed to Paris for his next job on an international production.

Perera says, “I couldn't have done it without him.  He said I was brave but I was only brave because he was amazing.”

For now, Ruwani Perera is focused on being safely with her family.