Hijacking Tuhoe

At the beginning of the InternetMANA road show, Kim Dotcom claimed that he and Māori shared a commonality – both have suffered “a great injustice”. How he managed to get away with saying he had the mana and the mind while implying his injustice was equivalent to 174 years of colonisation is beyond belief.

But the analogy appears to be an InternetMANA campaign strategy, evidenced by Georgina Beyer’s comparison claiming that:

“the man [Dotcom] suffered some injustices just like those in the Tuhoe raids suffered injustices and he’s yet to have those remedied”

It also appears to be an incredibly sinister attempt to hijack the injustice of the Tuhoe raids in order to obtain credibility within Māori communities. But many in Tuhoe are rejecting Dotcom and InternetMANA’s attempt to advance this cause. Seeing through the despicable way in which their struggle is being used as political fodder for the benefit of Dotcom.

I am mindful that the Tuhoe raids are not my story. To try to express the experience of injustice as it was felt by the people of Tuhoe would be for me to commit yet another injustice. Instead, like many other Māori, I come from a position in which the Te Urewera raids resonate because at that time and to this day we were forced to face the reality that racial inequality will always result in abuses of State power over our people.

No specifics are proffered by Dotcom or InternetMANA as to the equivalence of the events instead the strategy seems to be to emote on the language of injustice.

The only similarity is that in both cases the Court found unlawful search warrants were used by the Police. However, there are multiple cases in which search warrants are found to be unlawful and where armed offenders squads are deployed in executing those warrants, so Dotcom could analogise his experience with many other defendants. Yet he chooses Tuhoe. He does so in a calculated attempt to enhance himself. Yes. the raid on Dotcom’s mansion was unjust but as mentioned other raids on individuals in materially similar circumstances have also been unjust but the injustice he suffered was not equivalent to that of Tuhoe or of Māori.

Remembering that Dotcom is an individual, not an entire community. He did not stand accused of the international crime of terrorism because members of his community were well known Māori activists and advocates for mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga. He stood accused of white collar crime – fraud, racketeering and money laundering, similar in nature to crimes with which he had previously been convicted.

The injustice perpetrated against Tuhoe was not simply an unlawful warrant, it was the dark history behind the warrant – the State’s desire to impress its power upon an entire community detaining children and the elderly in some instances at gunpoint. So to reiterate, the Tuhoe raids and Dotcom Mansion raid are not comparable and the reasons mentioned in this post are not even an exhaustive list.

It is reprehensible then that Dotcom would even try to link his injustice to Tuhoe and to Māori more generally. It is deeply distasteful that those in MANA would allow Dotcom and their party alliance to proliferate the analogy without consulting Tuhoe. It is standard practice in Te Ao Māori to consult on matters that might affect another iwi’s mana. To link Dotcom to Tuhoe is one such occasion. Tuhoe deserve to comment about their own view. It’s disappointing to see that a kaupapa Māori approach is less central to MANA following the alliance, although Hone Harawira’s statement that “MANA has more non-Maori candidates than Maori ones, and in InternetMANA the difference is even more pronounced” may provide some insight as to why.

Whyte crimes against logic

Jamie Whyte claims:

“Maori are legally privileged in New Zealand today, just as the Aristocracy were legally privileged in pre-revolutionary France”

Despite the absurdity of both the comment and the comparison, I still have some comments to make below. But for a longer discussion in response to Whyte’s claims see Jamie Whyte has not been thinking by Matthew RX Dentith.

Rant begins…

Starting with a relevant queston: Who has the power to make and enforce law in New Zealand?

Parliament, you know, that Westminster system that derives from the United Kingdom and was imposed on Māori in contravention of a mutual agreement between many but not all iwi and the Crown – Te Tiriti o Waitangi. That system that decreed how society – including Māori society would be organised and resources distributed. That system that confiscated Māori land, suppressed Māori culture and Māori language and in doing so took away Māori rights to self-determination.

ACT say they want equality before the law, but whose law?

The law they [ACT] decree is superior to all other forms of law and law making.

Tell me again about how this policy is about equality.

Show me where Māori are so privileged that they can create enforceable laws that meet our needs and conform to our system of order in Te Ao Māori.

Explain to me how your law to make all enforceable law doesn’t privilege the entire system in your favour.

Jamie Whyte, Leader of the ACT Party and Author of ‘Crimes Against Logic’

Image sourced from Bryce Edwards Liberation blog

But hey, Māori. Forced to justify our existence since 1840. 

Rant ends…

It’s in our mauri, not on the spectrum

Confronting the left-right binary in an election year unearths a greater hypersensitivity than at any other time. This hypersensitivity is particularly notable among Māori. The effect is destructive so let us remind ourselves, that we do not need to measure our Māori-ness in terms of blood quantum and should never let anyone require us to do so. We do not need to measure our Māori-ness based on the level to which we are immersed in our hapu or iwi, or by the extent to which can communicate in te reo Māori. We should remember that the effects of colonisation mean subsequent generations are only now starting to find their way back to their iwi. That should always be encouraged.

Our political party affiliations do not make us more, or less Māori. Nothing can deny Māori our Māori-ness. Laws might suppress our culture, our language and our rights, but it cannot suppress our hearts, or our spirit. Our being Māori is in our mauri, it is not on the spectrum. So when we want to talk about politics let’s be clear about that at least.

The binary approach to politics divides us and this makes it difficult for kotahitanga (unity, togetherness) to emerge. We may be driven by different ideas and may choose alternative paths to get to the same destination but ‘naku te rourou nau te rourou’ (with your basket and my basket) we are capable of creating a framework that works for all.

Political Integration vs Mutual Co-operation

The Māori Party attracts considerable criticism from across the political spectrum. They are ‘separatists’ or ‘brown troughers’ to the Right and ‘irrelevant sell outs’ to much of the Left. There is no expectation that the Māori Party would be immune from criticism, and although I firmly believe democracy requires accountability that is often achieved through constructive criticism, sometimes criticism cannot be characterised as constructive on any account.

However, Morgan Godfery wrote an interesting – constructive piece entitled Politics Beyond the Veil. It traces the Māori Party from what he sees it as growing out of – the Māori renaissance i.e. a movement strategy, to what he believes it has become – an institutional strategy. But while it is constructive, I’m not persuaded that the Māori Party are engaging in what he has phrased ‘the politics of integration’ and this post sets out an alternative conception – the ‘politics of mutual co-operation’.

Morgan writes that ‘politics beyond the veil is where the political class rule the void’.

I don’t disagree with that argument in principle. I do disagree with the way it’s unpacked to dismiss the Māori Party (referring to Morgan’s concluding remarks ‘do we even need them?’) but absent a critique of the architects of political class rule in Aotearoa New Zealand, i.e. the National and Labour parties. It’s worth reminding readers that the political class does not simply encompass Tories and right-wing political parties (I’m not suggesting that this is what Morgan implies, I note it here simply for clarity).  The political class includes every party and their associative lobby groups with the capacity to influence how society is organised and how resources are distributed, irrespective of the interests of the groups they oppose or with whom they have no representational interest.

My discomfort with Morgan’s remarks on the political class and the Māori Party is that in crafting his argument he appears to cautiously avoid discussing the wider political class participants, particularly Māori MP’s that operate within Pakeha dominated parties that preference State intervention.

As mentioned above, Morgan argues that the Māori Party are engaging in the politics of integration. I appreciate his reasoning  and I admit to having previously held that same position. Driving the idea of integration is thesitting at the table’  rhetoric adopted and used unwaveringly by Māori Party MP’s, which has in effect created the conditions that have enabled mis-characterisations of the Māori Party position to prevail.

The strategy may have been sufficient as a response to criticism during their first term (even then it is still questionable) but as an ongoing response Morgan is correct in his implication that it doesn’t reveal anything meaningful about the direction of the Party.

However, his claim that being at the table is both the means and the ends envisioned by the Māori Party is unfounded given the explicit statements to contrary provided by the party. The Whanau Ora policy framework is committed to seeing Māori as decision makers in their own right and as Tariana Turia opines the Māori Party objective is ‘to get the government and all future government out of Māori lives as soon as can be managed’. Therefore, rather than engaging in the politics of integration I think a more accurate characterisation is that the Māori Party are engaging in the politics of mutual co-operation.

Integration implies the incorporation of Māori institutions into the apparatus of the State. In this sense, the State either retains or increases its control over Māori affairs thereby determining how Māori communities and institutions are organised and resources distributed in that respect.

Mutual co-operation on the other hand, implies incentives to co-operate where gains to the negotiating groups are mutually satisfactory i.e. where Māori can achieve control over their communities and institutions and determine for themselves how resources are distributed.

On the basis of the Māori Party policy framework, mutual co-operation seems the more likely scenario. The Māori Party are incentivised, by the rational self-interest of the party i.e. to further the aspirations of Māori, to engage in mutually co-operative arrangements. The reciprocal nature of this relationship ensures the other party (parties) attract reputational advantages that can work to increase their popularity because of the mutual toleration inherent in co-operative relationships.

Moreover, given mutual co-operation is a tool of our tūpuna engaged to negotiate rules and resolve disputes within and between whānau, hapu and iwi this is more consistent with the policy framework pursued by the Māori Party than the politics of integration suggested by Morgan, which in my view better characterises Māori institutions within parties that preference the State apparatus over Māori rights and aspirations.

While some critiques like that of Morgan’s are constructive and credible analyses, there is more often than not a distasteful dialogue that emanates from across the political spectrum in respect of the Māori Party. So in contrast to Morgan, who quite validly concludes by asking whether or not we need the Māori Party, I invite you to consider the following quote:

 “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect”

– Mark Twain

It’s not about character, it’s politics

[Image from NewstalkZB: Laila Harré and Kim Dotcom at the Internet Party announcement (Corazon Miller)]

I’m no Kim Dotcom fan. However, I do sympathise with his court case and the egregious way he came within the NZ justice system. Following Operation 8 sanctioned by the Labour government, I would have expected any future government to ensure the NZ Police met the procedural requirements for any search and surveillance warrants. As the High Court found, this wasn’t to be the case.

Whether Dotcom will be extradited is a matter for the Courts and the Minister of Justice. I’m not aware of the entire brief of evidence and given the case is ongoing with new information still emerging, it is difficult to know what the court will decide. My personal view, is that extradition is only appropriate where the crime alleged is so nefarious or amounts to a crime[s] against humanity.

But what about the granting of his permanent residence and the political pressure or political interference in his residency application?

Internet Party Leader, Laila Harre has stated that if she were the Minister of Immigration at the time Dotcom applied for residency, she would not have approved his application because of his criminal history, i.e. he didn’t meet the character requirements in her opinion.

My question then is, how does Harre think it is appropriate to lead a party founded and funded by a person she did not see as being of fit character to obtain permanent residency status in NZ, and in fact whom she herself would have denied residency?

Harre’s argument is that the issue for the Internet Party is not about Dotcom, but about the procedural impropriety of political interference that strikes at the heart of NZ’s independence. In effect, she alludes to the idea that it’s not about his character, it’s about politics. I wholeheartedly agree with her stance on political interference. However, I’m not convinced by her argument, that this issue is not about Dotcom. There is a fine line when you are working for a person you think is of questionable character while at the same time pushing that persons political agenda. The party make Dotcom an issue, when they use the granting of his residency application to support their claims for an independent NZ.

Te Reo Māori: Crown or Iwi control?

Prior to this week’s episode of Native Affairs, I had very little knowledge on the raruraru concerning the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill (‘the Bill’). Well, I knew there was some contention but was unsure of the specifics.

Native Affairs host Mihi Forbes interviewed Dr Pita Sharples and Maanu Paul regarding the  Bill. The argument boiled down to what Paul described as deficient consultation and the allegation that Sharples was intentionally denying the New Zealand Māori Council (NZMC) access to justice by rushing the Bill through Parliament thereby preventing the NZMC from bringing the Bill before the Waitangi Tribunal.

During the interview, Forbes asked Sharples if his actions in blocking the NZMC from going to the Waitangi Tribunal were equivalent to Labour’s blocking Māori from their right to be heard in court regarding the Foreshore and Seabed. It was a tough question, because in both instances, the right to be heard is prima facie infringed. However, in my view, confiscating land through the unilateral actions of the Crown against recommendations from the UN and with the intended purpose to override a court decision (see Ngati Apa), compared with putting a bill before the house following a 4 year consultation period are not, at least in my opinion, equivalent. I agree there needs to be clarification around what amounts to sufficient consultation, and the conflicting accounts of whether it was sufficient in this case make it difficult to assess from an external perspective.

What is on record, is that Sharples began the consultation in 2010 when he set up Te Paepae Motuhake to review the Māori language strategy. Since then he has met with reo stakeholders, iwi leaders, reo exponents and experts as well as the NZMC who also came to all these hui. In addition, the Bill will pass through the legislative process under which it will be subject to public scrutiny and further input through the select committee process.

During the airing of the Native Affairs interview, there was also an interesting exchange on twitter between Adrian Rurawhe (Labour Party) and Chris McKenzie (Māori Party) – both candidates for the Te Tai Hauāuru Māori electorate seat in the upcoming election, with Rurawhe in favour of the NZMC and McKenzie supporting Sharples.

Rurawhe argued that the NZMC were correct and that the bill should be put before the Waitangi Tribunal and criticised Sharples admission of wanting to implement the bill prior to his resignation. Rurawhe was not alone in criticising Sharples timeframe and I too think Sharples erred in his choice of words. But as we learnt with David Cunliffe’s apology the preceding week, context is important. I suppose we ought to ask whether wanting to complete work that has undergone a four-year consultation period before resigning so that work started is not left incomplete for incoming parliamentarians is equivalent to or carries the same intention as rushing through legislation? I guess people will make up their own minds depending on their levels of cynicism. It might be worthwhile remembering that rushing through legislation is what the Labour Party did when it passed the Foreshore & Seabed legislation that amounted to the largest confiscation of land since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  Or what National did when it rushed through the Mixed Ownership Model Bill despite strong public opposition.

McKenzie’s reply to Rurawhe was that the NZMC are an organisation that purport to represent all Māori yet there was no consultation when they [the NZMC] were appointed and that there are few representatives on the Council itself, suggesting there was a certain irony in the claim they sought to bring before the Waitangi Tribunal.

The Labour Party’s Māori Affairs spokesperson, Nanaia Mahuta has called on Sharples to immediately withdraw the bill. Mahuta claims:

“The proposed Te Matawai agency will effectively replace the Maori Language Commission for no good reason and without any evidence it will protect Te Reo Maori”

And the New Zealand Herald reports that the  NZMC want an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing to:

“stop proposed legislation that will see control of the agencies that safeguard Te Reo Māori given to iwi” (emphasis added)

McKenzie has also criticised that nobody had done anything about a reo strategy for years including during the years of plenty and that Te Mātāwai was in fact no different to Te Ohu Kaimoana or the NZMC.

Before proceeding, I must respectfully acknowledge that it was the NZMC that successfully brought the Te Reo Māori claim before the Waitangi Tribunal in 1985 and the following year Māori became an official language of NZ under the Māori Language Act 1987.  Noting,  it is this Act that is to be reformed to transfer control of te reo Māori from the Crown back to iwi.

What is clear here is that both the Labour Party and the NZMC are signalling a preference for Crown control of Te Reo Māori over Māori control but criticism is not limited to Labour and the NZMC.  Other commenter’s insisted that the reforms were a different kind of centralisation which still deprived whānau, hapu and the less dominant iwi groups control over te reo.  However, in other discussions,  another commenter put it a bit differently claiming:

“Isn’t it wonderful that question is not whether Māori should be running te reo, but who in Māoridom should be running it?”  [emphasis added]

It seems that many of those opposing the Māori Language Bill are content to see te reo controlled by the Crown and are resigned to the framing of the issue in terms of ‘whether or not Māori should be running te reo’. But isn’t preferencing the Crown over iwi something Māori have been fighting against since the inception of Te Tiriti o Waitangi?

I do share the concern with those who think that some iwi are privileged over others under the Bill. But I also hold out hope that the reforms put the centre of any power over te reo closer to the community meaning there is more opportunity to participate and for further decentralisation over time.

What must be remembered is that it is currently the Crown that runs the Māori language strategy. We can either maintain the status quo or start taking steps toward decentralising control to put our taonga back in the hands of our people.

Two Māori Politicians targets of attacks

Last week, the MANA party reported that Hone Harawira’s electorate office was shot at. The seriousness of this act has gone largely understated. Yes, it received coverage by the media, but not nearly to the extent one might expect given the grave risk to the lives of Harawira, his staff and the constituents who visit his office.

Then in the weekend, Arapera Sharples, wife of Pita Sharples reported that Pita was accosted in a supermarket carpark, verbally abused and his car keyed because he proudly displays Māori Party flags on his car.

I’m not suggesting the incidents are in any way related. However, when two of our most prominent Māori politicians are targeted in this manner we might want to reconsider the state of our race relations in NZ .


Not my King

The widespread condemnation of Koritangi Paki’s discharge without conviction (DWC) for burglary, theft and drink driving is wholly justified in my view. But was it special treatment that allowed him to escape conviction?  Khylee Quince points out that:

“A judge is required to do justice to do [two] things. One to look at the circumstances of the offending and two to look at the circumstances of the offender”

Quince went on further to say that the decision of the Judge is not unusual but instead that:

“His [Paki’s] particular position is unusual but looking to someone’s future life and career prospects, those are always things that a judge is able to and appropriately does take account”

In my view, and the view of many others, the Judge has overweighted Paki’s future prospects to be ‘Māori King’ in making her decision. The role of Māori King is an artificial construction held onto to retain the privileges that flow from the title in the rohe. Outside it for many Māori, the title has no weight. It is meaningless.

[UPDATE: For further context on the Kingitanga movement visit: Te Ara: Encyclopaedia of NZ or the Kingitanga website or New Zealand History online]

As Dover Samuels argued on RadioLive just because you whakapapa to royalty, this should not be an excuse to escape conviction for criminal offending.

Going back to the question of special treatment, as Quince says the Judge has a discretion in determining when to DWC and is required to take into account a range of factors including future prospects. However, I think the judge was wrong to ascribe the weight she did to Paki’s prospects as future king and in this sense there was special treatment. But I want to reiterate that this is not ‘Māori Privilege’ as some commentators suggest, because it only applies to those who are in line to become ‘king’ of the kingitanga movement and as I argued above, many Māori, particularly those outside the rohe, do not see the Māori King as having cultural significance. Many would say he is not my king. The Māori King is not the king of all Māori.

That his prospects as king were even raised as a defence is disturbing to say the least. I mean, if the kingitanga movement think simply avoiding conviction makes Paki a more suitable heir to the throne  at some later date, then something is wrong. Avoiding conviction does not minimise, eradicate or even justify his offending behaviour. He escapes (largely) the legal consequences but will still wear the immorality of his actions.

Annette Sykes told Newstalk ZB that, Paki didn’t get off scot-free because there was a:

“Reparation requirement and of course he brought disrepute and shame to the people of Tainui”

I accept that Paki did receive some level of punishment. But further to Sykes comments,  Paki’s case didn’t just bring Tainui into disrepute. The defence he invoked brought Māori into disrepute by using his rohe based privilege to exempt him from criminal conviction exacerbated by kingitanga representatives passing it off as a win for Māori culture and tikanga Māori. This is a clear and direct manipulation of the justice system to allow a person in a privileged position to avoid heavier legal consequences for his actions and in my mind this exploited Māori culture and tikanga Māori on the whole.