Chasing The Illusory Peace


Thirty Years War [Source: Google images]

Throughout history, the end of wars has required negotiations between the warring parties.  The most prominent negotiation being the Westphalian Peace Settlement that ended the Thirty Years War [1618-1648] that had desolated Europe. The settlement comprised three treaties which are considered by many jurists to have birthed the international legal system.[1] Confronting a state of perpetual war, the parties to Westphalia negotiated the conditions in which they could agree to cease their hostilities and enter peaceful relations.

The contemporary importance of Westphalia is that it established two fundamental principles that are now codified in the Charter of the United Nations: sovereign equality and territorial integrity.[2] As most can probably surmise, these principles were intended to have anti-hegemonic effect. However, in reality they enabled superpowers to emerge as a result of ‘radical inequalities among states in size, wealth, and power in international role’.[3] This is evidenced in the composition of the UN Security Council, exemplified by the five permanent States that hold veto power that they can and do use for their own political ends.

Admittedly, although negotiations have ended past wars, the Iraq (and similarly Syria) war is more complex. Firstly, IS is not a State in any formal sense despite their assertion to the contrary. Secondly, it is a civil war not a war where one sovereign State agresses against another equally sovereign State threatening their territorial integrity. It is in this context, that the do not negotiate with terrorists (DNNWT) rule arises.

Whether the DNNWT rule has acquired customary status, I am unsure, but a good case could probably be made given it’s widespread acceptance among States and the clear evidence of State practice. Additionally, it would be consistent with the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties principle that a treaty must be concluded between States in order to achieve international legal standing.[4] As terrorist designated organisations are not States, then no internationally binding treaty with IS could ever be legitimately concluded, unless they were to be recognised as a State (which would bring with it a very complex and contentious set of considerations). However, there is always the possibility of a domestic treaty negotiation situation.

However, the DNNWT rule serves both the anti-hegemonic and hegemonic agendas. For the reason that, it protects the sovereign equality of States, but it also allows superpowers to heavily influence the direction of international security policy and to dictate who are legitimate resistance groups according to their own political and economic interests. This might seem reasonable when limiting the scope of discussion to IS given the heinous atrocities that form the basis of their resistance strategy. But the implications extend further than those groups. It is not difficult to conceive of a circumstance when internal resistance might be necessary, such as, when a society is ruled under a violent dictatorship. For instance, many (contentiously) see the resistance of the Free Syrian Army as a justifiable belligerent act against their autocratic government and some States were prepared to support the FSA despite their lack of legal standing at international law.

The logic of the DNNWT rule seems perfectly reasonable.  In order to protect the political sovereignty of a nation, the obvious strategy is to refuse to allow a belligerent militia to influence the decision making of that State.  Of course, there are times where that logic is stretched beyond what is reasonable. Recalling Prime Minister John Key’s assertion that not going to war with IS was essentially allowing them to interfere with New Zealand’s political sovereignty. Absurdity abounding on the very fact that his decision to deploy troops to Iraq comes off the back of pressure from other nations that New Zealand cannot simply be a passive ally. Moreover, that doing nothing or doing what the government have decided to do are both decisions based on the influence of IS.

On the other hand, ruling out negotiations, as mentioned above, removes the very process by which conflict could ever hope to be resolved with enduring peace. I’m not so naive as to think that negotiating with IS would immediately resolve the long history of religious tension within Iraq and its surrounding regions. Nor am I suggesting that IS would even be willing participants  to negotiate a resolution. However,  eliminating the option arguably casts us back almost 400 years to once again face the reality of a perpetual war. Sheldon Richman also alludes to the perpetuity of war arguing that when governments invade and occupy other countries, or ‘underwrite other governments invasions or oppression, the people in the victimised societies become angry enough to want and even to exact revenge’.[5] I’m certainly not convinced that raining hell fire over Iraq and areas controlled by IS will bring about any solution at all.

Similarly, Dr Jeremy Moses (Senior Lecturer, UCNZ) tweeted:[6]

“…there are no good outcomes from [the] Iraq situation. [The] [r]ole of NZ can be nothing more than a favour to the US…NZ will have no material impact on what will be a long, brutal battle for Mosul. And even if IS falls, what then? No-one knows”

And before someone calls me an IS apologist, this is not about defending IS at all. To make that claim is both lazy and unintelligent. As humans in common, we all have an interest in avoiding the spread of hate and unnecessary death. We all have an interest in avoiding a world in which fear is normalised and the quality of our lives debilitated. We cannot pontificate under the pretence of ‘the others’ intolerance when our governments commit or support other governments that commit equally heinous crimes.

Richard Jackson makes the point much better:[7]

…what counts as cruelty and barbarism in war is shaped by our cultural values and historical context. Objectively, it is perverse to insist that burning a man to death with petrol is a greater moral evil than using munitions like phosphorous bombs in military operations which we know will burn a great many innocent people to death, including children. It is the nature of every society however, to point out the cruelty of the enemy while obscuring the cruelty of one’s own actions.

John Key has insisted that the New Zealand must join the club and choose the ‘right side’.He has made the executive decision that New Zealand will deploy troops to Iraq. That does not mean Aotearoa supports him in his crusade. Contrary to the PM’s suggestion that New Zealand’s contributions must exist on some kind of binary – sending troops versus doing nothin,  we can meaningfully contribute to improve the lives and outcomes of Iraqi’s through genuine humanitarian aid while finding a way to open dialogue between IS and the Iraqi government. For instance, New Zealand could consider relaxing our refugee quota, sending food and water, medical supplies and unarmed medical personnel rather than exporting guns, bombs, drones and people armed with what is ultimately a violent mission.

Expanding the war in Iraq will surely aggravate the incapacitating conditions that Iraqi peoples already endure. That is not help, that is hindrance. It is insane that our governments (NZ and abroad) support the export of violence to an area already riddled with instability and fear under the illusion that foreign arms will introduce peace amid the chaos. It’d be good if foreign policy wonks realised that peace is not something you can just bomb into existence.




[1] The Peace of Westphalia comprises three treaties, namely, the Peace of Münster, the Treaty of Münster and the Treaty of Osnabrück see Anuschka Tischer “Peace of Westphalia (1648)” in Oxford Bibliographies online <>.

[2] Charter of the United Nations, arts 2(1) and 2(4).

[3] Richard Falk “Revisiting Westphalia, Discovering Post-Westphalia” (2002) 6(4) The Journal of Ethics 311 at 314-317

[4] Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, art 2(1).

[5] Sheldon Richman “Domestic Fear Is the Price of Empire” Free Association: Proudly Delegitimizing the State since 2005 (25 February 2015) <;.

[6] @jeremy_moses <;.

[7] Richard Jackson “IS and the Barbarism of War” RICHARDJACKSONTERRORISMBLOG (12 February 2015). <;.

Transmisogyny Lurking in Supposedly Liberal Spaces

It is a difficult thing to have to outlay your own prejudices – past or present knowing that you have actively participated in the harm that befalls trans people on a persistent and unrelenting basis. As someone who grew up in a small provincial town, trans people were not present in my insulated world. Well, actually, they probably were but given the social conservatism that gripped the town, I imagine trans people were forced into hiding their gender identities to keep themselves safe from the violent identity-denying vultures.

This is by no means an attempt to justify the prejudices I held. But I cannot write this post pretending that I have always treated trans people in a dignified way. I have denied trans people their right to define their identity under the illusion that my vagina gave me superior rights to define who was and was not a woman, or indeed a man. It is certainly not a position I hold now, but it would be remiss and dishonest of me to ignore my own destructive role in transphobia of which I am deeply regretful and to which I offer my sincere apology to trans people everywhere.

On Saturday 21 February 2015, the annual Pride Parade took place in Auckland. The event included a float by both the New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections. A small group gathered to protest their inclusion.  For those unaware, when trans women are arrested, they are placed in men’s prisons in which they often become subjects of violent sexual and physical assaults. These institutions do not recognise the identities of trans people and are unsympathetic to the risks they impose on trans women in the process. The protest was derided by many as unnecessary with calls to the group that they were ‘ruining the parade’. The protest was in fact a necessary act of resistance to highlight the impropriety of including these institutions as part of the pride event given the routine mistreatment of trans people who come into their custody. A trans woman was removed with such force that it broke her arm, and as she was pinned to the ground crying in agony, a Police Officer stood atop of her. That the majority of people are quibbling over the minutiae of facts rather than being upset and incensed that a woman’s arm was broken during a forcible removal for participating in a legitimate form of protest, stuns me. This is an explicit act of violence against a woman.

From the responses I’ve seen circulating social media, I suspect if she were a cis woman, those same people would be banging on their keyboards in support of her. That just speaks to the harrowing extent of transphobia and transmisogyny lurking in supposedly liberal circles. After all, only a few weeks back cis people were bemoaning the mistreatment of a cis white woman who was called a hua on national radio. This is not intended to minimise Eleanor Catton’s experience, but is invoked here to highlight the blatant hypocrisy regarding the reactions to both situations. Catton, an author, was criticised for expressing a political opinion at a book/author event. Cis people everywhere (rightly) backed her rights to speak freely and validated her voice. A Māori trans woman dared to express a political view to challenge institutional transphobia at a Pride event. Cis people everywhere blame her for injury (“she was being aggressive”), attempt to silence her voice (“she was ruining the parade”), and invalidate her experience (“she was lying”).

This physical and emotional violence carried out by cis people against trans people must stop. If you can’t see your own hypocrisy or refuse to acknowledge your prejudice and work to overcome it, then you are not just part of the problem, you are the problem. Rather than dismantling structural inequality, you are reinforcing it.


We really going to ignore white terrorism?

For the most part, I support the idea of a media. I mean, the point is to question events and hold power to account. Depending on the particular media outlet, these things are done to a greater or lesser degree.

But when the collective industry by and large choose to ignore the execution style killings of 3 Muslim college students by a white man, the outcry should be vast and vociferous.

We can be assured that if it were 3 white college students shot in the head, that it would be framed as a ‘national tragedy’. And you know what? It would be a national tragedy. But THIS IS a national tragedy – no matter what religious, political or other views or identities the victims held.

We may also be assured that if the shooter were a person of colour or a marginalised identity, that scorn would be scrawled across every media headline in breaking news.

The blanket of silence is in the context of an ongoing global effort to homogenise the diversity of Muslim communities in an attempt to demonise Islam as a terrorist faith. The political goal: hegemonic stability.

We already know the answer as to ‘who’ these media organisations are protecting and ‘why’. Another question is ‘what’ are they protecting and ‘how’?

One answer is their carefully crafted (but incredibly ghastly) message that dare not depict any Muslim deaths in a manner that might induce empathy from the public because this would interfere with their ability to continue to persecute all Muslim peoples.

We talk about Islamophobia too often in abstraction, but the reality is that the architects of Islamophobia are the same entities and organisations that bury the truth to muzzle white outrage when Muslim blood is spilt in hate. The rationale being that white outrage is a threat to hegemonic stability, because the mainstream system already invalidates non-white voices.

The response from major media outlets (if any) has been that the 3 Muslim lives stolen was not a particularly newsworthy event because the ‘shootings’ were the actions of a ‘mentally deranged’ (white) man angry about a car park. But minimisation of the crime that took place is an indirect mode of persecution. The mass persecution (direct and indirect) against all Muslim peoples practiced by a white dominated media is a manifestation of white terrorism. The executions carried out at Chapel Hill are the savage and soulless actions of a white terrorist.

Are we really going to ignore white terrorism?

Reclaiming Northland not an impossibility

The resignation of Mike Sabin as Northland MP provides an opportunity for the people of Northland to elect a representative that is capable of addressing the issues confronting the electorate. During the General Election period locals in Northland voiced as primary concerns: employment, sexual violence, health, education, housing and economic development. But these issues were emphasised as unique to Te Tai Tokerau, that is Māori, despite the reality that Northland in geographical terms falls within those boundaries and many Māori are on the general roll, and many non-Māori are concerned about the same issues.

In saying that, Northland is considered a safe National Party seat. However, no seat can ever really be said to be absolutely safe. If the ALP unseating of LNP Premier Campbell Newmann in Queensland, Australia is anything to go by, a swing is not entirely unheard of, nor is it indeed impossible.

Whangarei Child Poverty Action Group report that 49 per cent of children [in Northland] were identified as being born in the bottom two most-deprived deciles – the highest child poverty rate in the country. Sabin’s resignation presents an opportunity for opposition or indeed minor parties to show the electorate that they are an important part of our social fabric and that parties do care about providing strong representation to confront this and every other issue in the region despite the neglect shown to the region in the past. Leaving the seat uncontested or putting up a candidate simply for the sake of it smacks of bad faith and is just not good enough for the people in Northland, especially given the politically and economically sensitive environment that currently prevails.

Willow Jean Prime was formally confirmed as the Labour Party’s candidate to stand in that seat. Prime ran during the General Election, and while she did not win it by a sizeable majority, that she is committed to running again illustrates her enduring commitment to the region.

There is some hinting that Winston Peters intends to stand in the seat or at least a representative of NZ First. Peters rightly pointing out the social and economic issues afflicting the region remain unresolved and overlooked for far too long.  Colin Craig has also contemplated having a crack at the Northland seat, while Hone Harawira has unequivocally ruled out standing after his defeat in the Te Tai Tokerau seat by Labour’s Kelvin Davis, but has suggested he has someone in mind to represent Mana. Arguably, Northland needs a candidate that can work in a mutually supportive relationship with Davis if any serious ground is to be made on the issues confronting the electorate.

But what about the other parties? NZ Greens, Māori Party, Internet Party.  Barely even a whisper. Yet this is an opportunity for these parties to put their politics where there mouth is and prove they are serious and viable alternatives to the macro parties.

I was wondering about who might be viable candidates in the Northland seat. My reckons are below.

Marama Davidson, NZ Greens. She is next on the Party list, is connected to the region, is incredibly passionate about representing the most vulnerable groups in society and if she still has billboards, she could recycle them. If any party can get away with recycling signage it’s the Greens.

Chris McKenzie, Maori Party. Although he hails from Tokoroa , he is third on the party list and has a raft of skills that he showcased during the General Election particularly with regard to eocnomic development and working with business and iwi sectors.  And if he’s changed his mind about standing as a candidate, then Dr Lance O’Sullivan is surely worth approaching following his endorsement of the party? He has made significant contributions to the many families in Northland and is highly respected and committed to the rohe.

Annette Sykes, Mana Movement. She is second on the party list, is the strongest candidate in the party and presumably has a solid rapport with Northland given her exceptional Tiriti work.

David Currin, Internet Party. He lives in the far north, stood in the seat in the General Election has a unique technology advantage and if the Internet Party intend on sticking round into next election, then its a way to keep the party momentum.

Many wonder why National and Labour remain the duopoly of political power in Aotearoa New Zealand. In short, they are always present. In less eloquent terms, they are like rabbits: they leave their political droppings everywhere. They both take opportunities for publicity seriously. The reality is that National do have the greatest chance of retaining the seat based on habitual voting patterns.  But put up a candidate that can win the minds of Northland, and that just might change.

Reverse Waitangi Day

Waitangi Day is almost always blighted by entrenched racism that much of the country pretend doesn’t actually exist every other day of the year. The stories grabbing headlines are almost always those that attempt to deny Māori their indigeneity, deny Māori never ceded sovereignty or, in general: deny Māori realities.

The Māori privilege meme serves the purpose of confirming racial bias in favour of Pākehā New Zealand. The veiled message: Māori people are so privileged with their Treaty settlements and their parliamentary seats. It’s as if somehow Pākeha are uncompensated when the government takes their land, or that Pākehā have no seats in the political institutions they designed and imposed on Māori.

So I turn to this brilliant comedic piece by Aamer Rahman, who nails the illogic of reverse racism.

In light of Rahman’s epic effort, if you struggle with empathy this Waitangi season, then below is an attempt (borrowing much of Rahman’s framework) to help you understand the stupidity behind claims of Māori privilege and Māori as reverse racists.

Reverse Waitangi Day: Māori privilege

Let’s first borrow Rahman’s hypothetical time machine.

Imagine Māori went back in time to before New Zealand was colonised and convinced all the independent iwi to join together and to colonise the territory of Great Britain and treat the Pākehā inhabitants as a sub-human species.

Ships full of Māori arrive on their shores rape Pākehā women, pillage and burn Pākehā homes and villages, and introduce diseases that decimate the Pākehā population within decades of arrival. Māori leaders then proclaim that the Pākehā ways are far too savage and lawless, thus allowing them to justify their colonisation because of their superior culture.

To really entrench their power, Māori design a Treaty in two languages that contain entirely different terms. Māori induce Pākehā to sign the Treaty making promises and guarantees about what Pākehā retain. But the Māori representatives had their fingers crossed the whole time, so no “real” promises were ever made. The majority of Pākehā sign the English version because they don’t really understand the Māori language version. But it doesn’t really matter which one they sign because Māori have another trick up their sleeve. Māori intend to establish a system that favours Māori at every social, economic and political opportunity. This means Māori and all the Māori settlers to come, get to determine which Treaty version has precedence and non-English speaking Māori will get to be arbiters of what Pākehā understood about what the Treaty meant to Pākehā. Oh and Māori decided never to give that Treaty any status as an actual law to abide by anyways.

For fun, Māori confiscate almost all Pākehā land and resources and encourage more Māori settlers to come to Great Britain and take land and resources from Pākehā. More Māori arrive and raise families, expand their population, most of whom contribute to the demonisation of Pākehā.

Māori get sick of not being able to understand the Pākehā they colonised and want to maintain the power they have gained, so they decide that Pākehā should conform to the Māori way of life now. They pursue a cultural cleanse by banning all English speaking and the practice of any system of values and beliefs Pākehā have established over centuries so that Pākehā lose every sense of hope of self-determination

Every decade or so, Māori churn out some story about how Pākehā weren’t the first people to live in Great Britain. And despite Pākehā overrepresentation in all the statistics determining social and economic outcomes, Māori insist it’s an issue of personal responsibility alone. Worried the message is losing its grip on the majority, Māori businesses and elites fund different information outlets to lead written assaults on how Pākehā have all this privilege. Those Pākehā Grievers.

Māori then prove their generosity and the equal platform Pākehā share with them by compensating some families with a massive 1% of the total value of their loss of land and other resources. They even gift Pākehā 7 of the 120 seats in the House of Representatives.

As a matter of goodwill, Māori eventually recognises English as an official language. But it turns out pronunciation is unimportant to Māori. So they create a culture that makes it okay to mock the English language and those who speak it.

After almost two centuries of this we could say that Māori privilege exists. That Māori get preferential treatment. That Māori have too many seats in Parliament. That Māori have more rights than everyone else. That Māori are more likely than any other group in New Zealand to succeed because of the institutional framework that favours their interests.

So, if Māori could go back in time and reverse every injustice inflicted on us as a people so that it were inflicted instead upon Pākeha then we could say Māori privilege exists. But none of that is true. And nor do Māori wish for it to be so.

But let’s acknowledge what Māori privilege actually means. Before invoking the meme this Waitangi Day, why not pause and actually think about what you’re saying rather than parroting the views of those reacting to what they perceive as a threat to their own privilege.


If your reaction is immediately a defensive ‘…but [insert historical fact about invasions on British territory]’ then you have missed the entire point of the post. So let me spell it out: Previous invasions of one country DO NOT justify colonisation of another.

Freedom: the front for exceptionalism

Twelve people were shot dead in France. That is indisputably a tragedy. France is mourning, as any nation would when their people are attacked and killed for doing what they believed in. It is an outrageous attack. Yet, I have some discomfort in the reference to these deaths as heroic. As if somehow there was a looming struggle that threatened to destroy any sense of freedom in the Western world, and those who were killed won the fight for our freedom. I imagine that to their family and friends the victims are actually heroes. I just don’t see how they are somehow more heroic than peoples fighting oppressive, violent and militant regimes. I may (probably will) be accused of insensitivity, and I get that. I really do. But hang on, isn’t this freedom of expression? Isn’t this an example of the‘No-one has the right not to be offended?’ argument, the right that all major media outlets and those hashtagging #JeSuisCharlie are claiming as an absolute and inviolable freedom?

Lets look around the world and at some recent events. On 7 January 2015,  37 people were killed and 66 injured in a bomb blast in Yemen.  The previous weekend, Boko Haram fighters are reported to have killed hundreds of people in Nigeria. Mexico, September 2014, 43 college students went missing in and are feared dead. On New Year’s Eve, a stampede in Shanghai killed 36 people.  All over the world, people are killed by crazed gunmen, or by militant or corrupt regimes while fighting for freedom from oppression. But their deaths are not commiserated with anywhere near the publicity we are experiencing with the Paris shootings, or even the Sydney Cafe shootings. And to be frank, the 12 victims of the Charlie Hebdo shootings were not victims of oppression, and they were not heroes that gifted the world free speech (a little bit more on that below).

In countries such as West Papua, Palestine, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Mexico, Venezuela, Egypt, and many other countries (as alluded to above) hundreds of thousands of people have and continue to die fighting oppressive regimes – for their right to freedom. Yet, in the same Western media outlets that are proclaiming the inviolability of free speech and the heroism of their peers, the deaths of these freedom fighters and victims of oppression remain largely invisible. They are the nameless, the faceless, the unidentified bodies. They are dehumanised. There is no soft piece about their life, family, friends and work. They are the ‘other’. They are ‘collateral damage’. Just imagine if the victims in Paris were reported on as ‘collateral damage’. It would cause a Westwide shitstorm. Despite the fact that Charlie Hebdo already wear their freedom on the front cover of their own publication, these deaths are amplified as some kind of heroic act in the fight for freedom of speech. And it’s rubbish. They were bearers of that right and they knew it. This is not about free speech. This is about setting a pretext. This is Western Exceptionalism. And our media are complicit in it.



Twitter. It can be rough.

I’m relatively new to Twitter. Well, not really, but I say relatively since I joined in 2012, Twitter launched in 2006 and I follow many people who have been on there since 2009. Engaging with people you don’t know can be a frightening experience. It definitely was for me. As someone who is  stupidly shy in real life, learning to talk online with people I didn’t know was (and still is) incredibly intimidating. Usually interactions are pleasant or at worst they are respectful disagreements. However, I have observed more recently hostility on the rise. Sometimes it seems it is a result of over familiarity such that a comment or remark sparks some people call a pile on (see below) as the comment/remark fails to meet what a persons followers have come to expect from their interactions. At other times it’s a lack of familiarity where sarcasm is misconstrued as actual belief. And of course, there are times where some people are just vile and ignorant.

I want to explain some of these terms for new, infrequent or non-Twitter users.  I’m not here proclaiming to be the Twitter police or any kind of authority on Twitter or dictating how people should behave online. I just thought I’d share my experience and understanding (please correct where I have misunderstood or where you disagree!). I don’t even know what I’m trying to achieve by doing so. It just feels like something I should do. Especially given events of late.

With pile-ons there are occasions where solidarity is the right response. For example, where minorities come under attack from majorities or where individuals are singled out for the purpose of breaking their spirit i.e.supporting someone who is being bullied. There are also occasions where solidarity goes beyond being about justice, fairness, or truth and devolves into pack mentality creating an unsafe online space. One key problem for me is that sometimes it’s hard to decipher if what is happening is solidarity or the pack. This is particularly difficult when I am unfamiliar with a particular issue. A lot of feelings emerge when these situations arise. Fear is a big one. Often I stay silent because I am too scared of the repercussions. When I do muster up the courage to speak, I meet my friend doubt. Will they turn on me if I offer an opposing or critical view? Alternatively, am I part of a pack or is this solidarity? Do I have enough knowledge to add anything constructive? Am I overshadowing rather than amplifying the voices of those affected? How will I cope if people are outright mean, nasty, rude to me?  And yes – to be perfectly clear, I have had hurt feelings online. I have felt isolated and even ridiculed by people I respect. But I have come to accept that this is part of having an online life.

What is a subtweet? In short, referencing an individual through some form of identifier (i.e. twitter name, online persona, initials, pronoun, comment made by that person etc) without mentioning their twitter handle in the subtweet.

The issue of subtweets also has positive and negative attributes. For example, wanting to criticise an argument or article without drawing the author into it, seems a perfectly legitimate reason to subtweet. Especially if the author has a propensity to notch up the volatility. But to cast aspersions or criticisms about a person and/or their actions/decisions? In my personal view, it’s perfectly fine when it’s a public figure. But I’m not comfortable when it’s a private individual. Of course there are no hard and fast rules, and I’m mindful that there will always be exceptions to any rule or norm.

Another common term used is ‘calling out’. This is where a person reprimands another user or users who have behaved or commented in manner that is, for example, bigoted or bullyish, often followed by a bit of education on why the behaviour, comment etc was not ok.  Sometimes this can lead to a pile on, and in fact, is usually the catalyst. Moreover, calling out can itself can instigate a pile on where the particular issue is incredibly contentious. Some people believe they have a duty to call out others on everything, while others consider calling out to be unproductive in most cases. I have no settled position. I think in many cases it’s perfectly justified (especially racism, discrimination, prejudice) and in other cases it can be more damaging than helpful, in particular, where the point is to vilify not to educate.

Lately, there has been some talk about safety on Twitter. It is incredibly important. Why? Because Twitter is an inherently unsafe place.There are of course ways to minimise harmful or triggering interactions, but there is no foolproof fix. Aside from the technical side – using a protected account,  blocking harmful accounts, and setting other security features, we need to also look at ourselves and how we behave. Because only we are in control of that. One way to do this is to take accountability for our actions and words, take the time to understand the other, apologise when in the wrong and forgive. This is the approach I intend to take going forward. The last one is the hardest.  But probably the most important. I leave you with an unattributed quote [if interested, click the link to see the contention around its origins]

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.


Disunity as the year comes to an end for the Māori Party?

Te Karere reports that Tariana Turia is furious over Te Ururoa Flavell’s Whānau Ora housing decision:

“The newly-appointed Minister for Whānau Ora has come under attack from the person who setup Whānau Ora and the party he currently leads. Tariana Turia is angry that the co-leader of the Māori Party Te Ururoa Flavell has overturned a decision she made in July to give millions of dollars for social housing to Māori. Te Karere understands the money, intended to be managed by Māori, will now be administered by a government agency.”

Of note, the headline is a little misleading since the decision was not advanced by Flavell and after watching the interview, Turia seems disappointed more than she is furious.

The issue: Flavell has supported Housing Minister Nick Smith in abandoning the previous Māori housing policy which would have seen Te Pou Matakana (an independent Māori organisation) administer $25 million to coordinate Māori housing.

The decision: to transfer this responsibility of Māori Housing to Crown entity Te Puni Kokiri.

As the architect of the previous policy, it is unsurprising that this move has upset Turia. Mainly because it seems to contradict the objectives of Whānau Ora to create rangatiratanga for Māori as opposed to micromanagement by the State. And after scrolling through the feedback on this decision, Turia’s criticism appears to resonate with a sizeable proportion of Māori Party supporters and Māori more generally, including myself.

To be clear, I have much respect for Te Ururoa Flavell. This post is not about trampling on his mana. And I suspect that was not Turia’s intention either. Rather, it is acknowledging that as a Minister of the Crown, his decisions will be scrutinised even by his wider support networks, and that critique is a healthy part of the democratic process. One thing to be mindful of is that Flavell is bound by collective responsibility in his portfolios and must represent the government’s position in relation to his ministerial responsibilities.  This was made clear when the Party members and supporters voted in favour of the relationship accord. It is the primary reason the membership supported Co-Leader Marama Fox as an independent voice in Parliament. That outside cabinet position is intended to give Māori a voice and provide an avenue for criticism of decisions that Māori believe are not in our best interests and do not  steer us toward tino rangatiratanga.

Why the abandonment of Māori governance in favour of State management of Māori housing? Money.  According to Turia:

[If] they were worried about the amount of money, which is what they told me, worried about the amount of money for administration, they could have put that in the contract.

The reason supplied to Turia is a major cause for concern. It explicitly says that the Crown do not trust Māori to manage our affairs. In my view, it is both a condescending and oppressive attitude that intensifies ingrained views of Māori as ‘needing to be civilised’. Moreover, it imposes a view of Māori criminality (i.e. Māori organisations cannot be trusted to act legally or appropriately with significant sums of money) and is further evidence that the heavy chains of colonisation are still firmly in place.  There are, of course, clear instances of the mismanagement of funds within Māori organisations. However, this is not unique to Māori and flagging it as a reason for ‘State’ retention of control entrenches the perception that the behaviour of the few is reflective of the entire Māori population.

The government talks about its role  in creating an enabling environment for Māori. This is language drawn from international trade policy, in particular, the WTO. Unfortunately, the way it is being employed in NZ is eerily similar to the way the developed countries advocate the enabling of developing and least-developed countries but in reality have sidestepped their obligations.

 In response to Turia’s criticism, Māori Party President, Naida Glavish made the following comments as reported on Twitter by Te Kaea Journalist Maiki Sherman:

@MaikiSherman  writes:

Māori Party president Naida Glavish tells former co-leader Tariana Turia to “let go” following her public criticism of Te Ururoa Flavell.

“We would all hate to see Whaea Tariana detract from her own mana and spoil her distinguished record of service to our people and our party”

“It was her own decision to leave Parliament, which necessarily meant passing over the reins to her successors” – Naida Glavish.

Tariana Turia criticised a decision to change administration of funding for Maori social housing to Te Puni Kokiri.

Naida Glavish says the decision was made by Nick Smith, based on a Cabinet decision, on recommendation by the Auditor General.

Apart from the Māori Party’s embarrassing public spat, this also shows they’ve been railroaded by Cabinet. #RelationshipAccord

In my view, Turia’s criticism was not overstepping the boundary – it was a legitimate concern. As a founder of the Party and a key architect of Whānau Ora, it is understandable that she would express her views about its future in light of the decision made. The question asked of her: ‘What message do you have for Te Ururora Flavell?’ was provocative and seems to have baited the Party into a public war of words. Inadvertently implying a disunity that does not, in fact, exist.  The Party will need to mindful of how easy but also harmful it is to conflate legitimate criticism with personal attacks going into 2015 and beyond.


Link to Māori Party Press Release here re: Maiki Shermans commentary on Twitter.

The Greens get a little personal

I like the Greens. A lot. Their predilection for social and environmental justice and commitment to clean politics was something that set them apart from the other two main parties toward the end of the 2014 election campaign. So naturally it seemed out of character for Metiria Turei to make what might be construed as a deeply offensive personal remark in her public condemnation of  Tutehounuku (Nuk) Korako (National), as the newly appointed Chair of the Māori Affairs Select Committee (MASC).

In context, Turei was making valid constructive criticisms about the changes to the MASC under the National government. She raised three fundamental concerns.

(1) Scheduling debates on Treaty bills at the same time as the MASC meetings. This is an entirely justified concern, because surely any Te Tiriti issues fall within the scope of Māori Affairs.

(2) That National are wasting the MASC time by not pulling the Te Reo (Māori Language) Bill, despite the Minister of Māori Development establishing an independent advisory group.

The Greens consider that ‘it is not fair on submitters that the bill could be changed significantly after the select committee has already heard their submissions’. Out of interest, I had a look at the terms of reference for the Māori Language Advisory Group (MLAG). The document states that the MLAG will provide expert and independent advice about the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill including any changes to policy intent and legislation. Moreover, the group will be supported by Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK) and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission). It also specifies:

“For the avoidance of doubt, it is noted that the Māori Affairs Select Committee will undertake its inquiry into the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill, and provide its report to the House by 30 March 2015. The establishment and operations of the Māori Language Advisory Group is not related to, and will not affect, the operations of the Māori Affairs Select Committee. The Māori Language Advisory Group will be able to review and comment on the findings and recommendations of the Māori Affairs Select Committee with regard to the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill”

It seems that the two groups have distinct roles. The MLAG to consider the technical aspects of language revitalisation and implementation of the strategy. The MASC to provide a more holistic role in hearing and addressing the concerns of submitters through a final report with recommendations. While that might seem pretty straightforward, it would be good to get some clarification around the process so that the public can see whether it is or isn’t ‘wasting the committee’s time’. However, I am not entirely convinced that the criticism is about public interest in the process. Especially,  given the Greens and Labour have been highly critical of the Bill since its inception and would probably prefer it to not progress any further.

However,  as an opposition MP, Turei does have an obligation to outlay her concerns as a representative on the MASC. But her comments about Korako  I found a little troubling, perhaps I’m overreacting.

(3) Questioning the selection, competency and experience (and impliedly mana) of the person elected by majority vote to position of Chair seemed to me to go beyond the remit of an opposition MP and enter more personal territory. Because it is the Māori Affairs select committee, I’d have expected a measure of manaakitanga be shown, especially once the process of election were complete.

 Turei commented on Māori TV [see audio] that:

 “National put up a first termer as the Chair of this committee, it is an important committee, it should be chaired with someone who has much more experience than that”

I refer to the audio because it gives other cues in the form of tone and body language that cannot be translated in its written form and the text in the article and the interview differ slightly.

Te Rōpū Pounamu (The Greens Māori caucus) also emphasised this sentiment in a tweet:

I wondered on what grounds a first term MP might lack experience to Chair the Committee. Obviously a first time MP has no Parliamentary experience, but all MP’s enter the House with their unique skills and life experiences. I also considered if the same criticism would have been raised if it were a Labour first term MP who was nominated and elected to Chair the Committee.

Anyhow,  I took a peek at Korako’s public profile. Having sat on a number of Boards and having been involved in iwi organisations as well as running his own business, I do not see how he wouldn’t have the necessary skills to do the job. The suggestion that he wasn’t up to scratch was probably deeply insulting to him. It also came across as rather elitist highlighting perhaps a sense of hierarchy within the Greens that would appear to run counter to their narrative of equal opportunity.

What Turei doesn’t mention is the process by which the Chairperson is selected.  Its an important part of the context. In short, at the first Committee meeting nominations are called for by any member of the committee, and the nomination must then be seconded. Once nominations are ready, then the Chairperson is elected by majority vote.

So it is misleading to say National put a first termer as Chair, when the reality is, that Korako’s nomination must have been seconded, and then he was elected to that position by the majority of the committee.  My understanding is that there was a deadlock during the election process and if it weren’t broken then the meeting would have been dismissed and the committee unable to carry out its work. Apparently, Marama Fox relinquished her nomination for Deputy Chair to Nanaia Mahuta (Labour) to break the deadlock and to enable the Committee to carry on.

It is great that the Greens are stressing the importance of the Māori Affairs Select Committee and that they are (and have always been) committed to Te Tiriti. I just think the little snipe at Korako stooped to a level below which I’d expect the Greens to go. I may not agree with his party politics, but his perceived lack of experience by the Greens, isn’t something I’d expect to see his Committee colleagues dragging out in public after he were elected.

About Indigenous Peoples

Following last nights debate on ‘whether the New Plymouth District Council should have designated Māori Wards’, I thought it might be worthwhile posting my thoughts on the concept of Indigenous Peoples. Why? Because the persistent analogies to minority groups within the dominant group inadequately address the issue of what it means to be indigenous. This to be fair happened on both sides of the debate. The side opposed to Māori Wards attempted to ignore the colonial history and the downstream effects of colonisation on identity, representation and structural power differences. On the side in favour, attempts to get those opposed to reflecting on how different NZ society might have looked absent the women’s suffrage movement. I appreciate the angle Metiria Turei was taking, and I wholly endorse that sentiment. However, I think we need to be careful about lumping the rights of Indigenous Peoples in with marginalised sections of the dominant group. This is explained further below,

I am mindful that the concept of ‘indigeneity’ is itself controversial – including among those self-identifying as Indigenous Peoples. However, here is an [abridged] excerpt from a paper I wrote regarding Indigenous Peoples and International Trade Law, that sets out some of that literature, which I think is relevant to last nights debate.

 [From my paper: Enabling Indigenous Peoples Economies Through the WTO].

Indigenous Peoples represent around six per cent of the global population.[1] However, international recognition of Indigenous Peoples rights is a relatively new phenomenon.  Prior to World War II, attempts by indigenous representatives, such as Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana (Māori, Aotearoa New Zealand), to have their voices heard at the (then) League of Nations were denied.[2] Frustrated by the continued decimation of their human rights, Indigenous Peoples have embarked on what might be termed a renaissance. Although the mood or resistance has been building over the past three decades, evidenced by the creation of indigenous centric institutions within the United Nations system, the emergence and persistence of grassroots groups suggests a new progeny is born to carry the mantle of resistance through the next phase of globalisation.[3]

Etymologically, the word indigenous derives from the Latin indigenia meaning ‘sprung from the land’, ‘a native’ or literally ‘in-born’ or ‘born in (a place)’.[4] Others have interpreted its Latin roots as meaning ‘belonging naturally to the soil’.[5]The etymology provides a basis to formulate a legal definition but is weak on its own since it evades broader considerations necessary to make any definition meaningful, at least to those the definition is attempting to describe. It is also too wide, encompassing the rights of any person born in a particular place, thereby ignoring issues pertinent to the unique experiences of Indigenous Peoples and failing to capture the political history that renders the need for special recognition of indigenous rights. However, consensus on a formal definition in the literature has not been forthcoming, and attempts to define or to develop practical criteria for the legal recognition of Indigenous Peoples at international law, were either criticised for their assimilatory underpinnings,[6] or have lacked broad support to give any definition or characterisation any firm legal status.[7] While some descriptions incorporate distinct cultural and social factors, others attach significance to histories, language and political subjugation to the dominant culture.[8] One of the most widely cited descriptions of Indigenous Peoples, is the working definition, proposed by the Special Rapporteur on The Issue of Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples, Jose Martinez Cobo in what is commonly referred to as the Martinez Cobo Study.[9] The Special Rapporteur emphasised that Indigenous Peoples have ‘historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories’, and are ‘distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories’.[10] He also suggested they ‘are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems’.[11]

Prior to the Martinez Cobo Study, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had attempted to construct a definition in their Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Populations (No. 107) although it was criticised and later replaced by the Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (‘the Convention No. 169’)[12] due to the integrationist approach the earlier text advocated.[13] However, only 20 countries have ratified the new convention, which arguably minimises the legal significance it might have had at international law.[14]

Article 1 of the Convention No.169 distinguished Tribal peoples from Indigenous Peoples but affirmed that self-identification as Tribal or Indigenous was regarded as the fundamental criterion for determining the groups to whom the provisions of the Convention would apply’.[15] The Convention No. 169 definition is useful because recognises the adversity afflicting Indigenous Peoples, by incorporating the ideas of self-determination and the existence of a community will that existed prior to colonisation and still prevails – even if in a softer form than traditionally,  following a history of colonisation and its subsequent effects.[16] Additionally, it emphasises self-identification, consultation and participation, and anti-discrimination as core principles, [17] which supports the systems Indigenous Peoples have in defining their own ways of identifying as belonging to their particular indigenous group.[18]Although few countries adopted the Convention No. 169, no new definitions have emerged in international law to supplant it and while it only has legal effect for those countries that ratified the convention, it at least provides a supplementary reference to assist in international jurisprudence.

Arguably, the Convention is also broad enough to capture the many Indigenous Peoples of the world, but narrow enough to exclude groups or people attempting to disingenuously attain indigenous status. This co-opting of indigeneity is worth noting since it is used in various situations to negate the special status afforded to Indigenous Peoples within national legal frameworks. Given the language of co-option, that infiltrates the political landscape both locally and globally, [19] it is unsurprising that Indigenous Peoples consider definitional issues a matter of their own concern rather than that of States or international bodies.[20] This is a point to bear in mind when attempting to define, classify, or characterise indigenous rights. In reference to Māori Academic Ani Mikaere, attempts should be mindful of avoiding recreating the colonised in the image of the coloniser’ (emphasis added).[21]

Unfortunately, some pro-indigenous but non-indigenous individuals, groups or organisations who advocate on behalf of Indigenous Peoples can stifle Indigenous Peoples voices. This amplification of non-indigenous voices on indigenous issues prompted Chief Tashka Yawanawa of the Yawanawa tribe in Brazil to lament: [22]

We are tired of anthropologists, environmentalists, church-related organizations, and other specialists speaking for us and using us for their self-interest. Please respect our self-determination to make our own decisions.

As illustrated above, determining what constitutes ‘indigenous’ is both complex and contentious. However, Lindsay Short argues, it is ‘increasingly important as the international community moves towards greater legal recognition of indigenous legal rights’. [23] Short warns though of the unintended consequences of framing any legal definition too precisely, such that it potentially excludes certain communities the particular law was intended to assist.[24] A remedy to guard against the risk of accidental exclusion might be found in the work of Siegfried Weissner who suggests disaggregating human collectivities into ‘organic’ and ‘non-organic’ groups to appreciate the spaces Indigenous Peoples occupy.[25] He does this to emphasise that Indigenous Peoples are distinct from marginalised groups that ‘do not have the same interest in sharing all aspects of life’ and who are ‘primarily concerned about not being discriminated against by the ruling elites’ (emphasis added), as alluded to above, in part, in discussing the problems of pro-indigenous non-indigenous voices speaking on behalf of Indigenous Peoples.[26] Weissner suggests that organic groups make a conscious choice to live in a community together such as a ‘nation’ or as a ‘people’ (emphasis added).[27] He proposes that Indigenous Peoples are, therefore, inherently organic because they are ‘collectivities that are characterized by the desire and practice of sharing virtually all aspects of life together’.[28] Moreover, Weissner insists that classifying Indigenous Peoples as organic groups ‘facilitates inclusion in the legal regime of autonomy of not only indigenous communities with distinct territories, but also those [I]ndigenous [P]eoples who have lost most of their land base, thus constituting largely personal associations’.[29] Mikaere also appears to draw on this concept of ‘organic’ groups. She writes that the cumulative effect of knowledge building connects people to ‘their environment, and to one another within a framework of shared beliefs and understandings about the way in which the universe is ordered’.[30]


In the debate, the opposition referred consistently to the UDHR but mostly ignored UNDRIP. Winston Peters decried the use of racial attributes as justifications for representation.  Willie Jackson, in my view, made the strongest point in emphasising that the Māori Wards are not just about having people who have Māori ancestry, but are about having representatives that advance kaupapa Māori. His words resonate with the idea of conceiving of Māori (and all other Indigenous Peoples) as an organic group, not a marginalised sector of a dominant whole.

Recognising the rights of Indigenous Peoples as distinct from rights of marginalised groups is not about advocating a superior status. It is about recognising that Indigenous Peoples have rights as ‘a Peoples’. That dominant groups already exercise rights as ‘peoples’ in formulating, implementing and enforcing the rules that legitimised the formation of their States, constitutions, institutions and both national and international legal frameworks. These rights as a ‘Peoples’ are distinct from ‘individual human rights’.



[1]     United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples ST/ESA/328 (2009) at 7-8. [SOWIP]

[2]     SOWIP, at 2.

[3]    Megan Davis “International Trade, the World Trade Organisation and the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (2006) 8 Balayi: Culture. Law and Colonialism 1, at 1.

[4]     Douglas Harper “Indigenous” Etymology Online (accessed 18 October 2014) <>

[5]    Jagannath Dash and Rabindra Nath Pati “The Indigenous and Tribal People To-Day: Issues in Conceptualisation” in Tribal and Indigenous People of India: Problems and Prospects (APH Publishing, New Delhi, 2002) at 3.

[6]     International Labour Organisation Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Populations 1957 (No. 107), [ILO Convention No. 107].

[7]   International Labour Organisation Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples 1989 (No. 169) (entered  into force on 05 Sep 1991) [ILO Convention No. 169].

[8]     Lindsay Short “Tradition versus Power: When Indigenous Customs and State Laws Conflict” (2014) 15 (1) Chi J Intl L 376 at 380.

[9]     SOWIP, at 2.

[10]    United Nations Study of the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations E/CN.4/Sub.2/1986/7 Add. 4 (prepared by the Special Rapporteur, Jose Martinez Cobo) (1986/7), paras [379-382], [Martinez Cobo Study], as cited in SOWIP, at 15-16.

[11]    Martinez Cobo Study, at 15-16.

[12]    ILO Convention No. 169.

[13]    ILO Convention No. 107.

[14]    ILO Convention No. 169.

[15]    ILO Convention No. 169,

[16]    ILO Convention No. 169, art 1.

[17]    For example, see ILO Convention No. 169, arts 3 and 4 (on discrimination), and arts 6 and 7 (on consultation and participation).

[18]    For a general discussion see Natalie Coates “Who are the Indigenous Peoples of Canada and New Zealand?” (2008) 12 (1) Journal of South Pacific Law 49-55.

[19]   See for example Hon Trevor Mallard’s comments on attempting to proclaim indigenous status in parliament in 2004 amid the Foreshore and Seabed tension in New Zealand: (3 August 2004) 619 NZPD 14522

[20]   Short, at 380-381.

[21]   Ani Mikaere Colonising Myths and Māori Realities: He Rukuruku Whakaaro  (Huia Publishers, Aotearoa New Zealand, 2011), at 206

[22]    Tashka Yawanawa “Indigenous Leader to NGOs: No One Speaks For Us – Or Thinks For Us” Ecosystem Marketplace: A Forest Trends Initiative (online, Brazil, 19 October 2012) <>; , as cited in First Peoples Worldwide “FPIC without FPIC” (online, 9 August 2013) <;.

[23]   Short, at 380.

[24]    Short, at 380.

[25]    Siegfried Wiessner “The Cultural Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Achievements and Continuing Challenges” (2011) 22(1) EJIL 121 at 128.

[26]    At 128.

[27]    Ibid.

[28]    Ibid.

[29]    Ibid.

[30]    Mikaere, at 317-322.