John Minto, candidate for the MANA Movement has published a press release criticising the Māori Party. Criticism is all part and parcel with party politics, but this particular criticism ignores the entire kaupapa Māori framework of the Party, yet attempts to question it on kaupapa terms.
Firstly, Minto is correct to imply that the balance of power could quite possibly lie with the Māori Party post-election. He is wrong to attempt to usurp the Māori Party’s democratic processes when he essentially claims the Māori Party must pick a side pre-election. There are of course arguments for why parties should make such a declaration pre-election. However, if the constitution on which the party was founded and to which its members agreed stipulates decisions are to be made at hui, then the Māori Party are not in a position to make such claims – they must await the outcome of the election then take the decision to nationwide hui to allow its membership, supporters and voters to determine how the party will proceed. [see cl 5 Decision Making (p.10) Māori Party Constitution].
Secondly, Minto refers to recent polls that indicate a majority of Māori want the Māori Party to go into coalition with NZ Labour. I have no doubt that is an accurate assessment of Māori political opinion. The polls on Te Kaea have shown that Māori are showing a preference for the Māori Party to work with Labour if they win the election – emphasised because it is an important factor that Minto avoids mentioning. The question appears to be premised on Labour winning the election [I haven’t seen the Reid Research report, so cannot make a firm statement on that]. However, if Te Tai Hauāuru is anything to go by 67.4% of voters said they’d support the Māori Party continuing its relationship with National if National wins the election. Note here again, the percentage is based on National actually winning the election. So it’s possible that the Māori Party may enter another relationship accord with National, but if and only if National win the election and there is consensus for the party to do so.*
Thirdly, Minto is posturing on ‘principles’, suggesting he is in a position to decide what the principles of the Māori Party and its supporters are and how they are to be interpreted. But his commentary isn’t about principles at all. It is an acrid form of politicking under the pretence of it being about kaupapa Māori.
If Minto is so concerned about ‘mana enhancing’ then he should probably understand that manaakitanga – a broadly accepted tikanga Māori value from where this concept arises, is about not trampling on the mana of others. Yet, the whole point of his post appears to do precisely that – to trample on the integrity and mana of some of Māoridom’s most esteemed contemporary rangatira and by extension their whānau, hapū and iwi by manufacturing facetious links to manipulate his readers into a false belief that the Māori Party are somehow implicated in the Dirty Politics scandal. I wrote a previous post that seems to have pre-empted the kind of statement that Minto has released. See: Silence might imply what you want to avoid.
The Māori Party profess to stand as an independent indigenous voice in Parliament. This is often misconstrued to presume that there are no other indigenous voices in Parliament. The misconstrual is purposive and is harmful to us as a people.
The Māori Party make their claim based on everything they do in practice and in theory as being for indigenous people, by our indigenous people. This claim is not intended to deny our other esteemed rangatira in Parliament or in fact, any Māori voice in parliament of their mauri as Māori. It is a statement about what the party stands for and stands as. It is what the party believes makes it unique, that is, it doesn’t have a Māori wing or contingent that pursues kaupapa Māori politics – it is in its entirety a Māori party.
Hence my trepidation with Minto telling the Māori Party to take a principled stand – but whose principles is he referring to when he attempts to define for the party what ‘mana enhancing’ means for them?
The Māori Party kaupapa indicates that mana enhancing is practiced through manaakitanga so in a political context it is about being in a position to be able to put our people at the forefront of policy and decision-making. It is not a western construct of us versus them, it is more transformative than that. It is about recognising diversity, respecting differences, and building mutually co-operative relationships that transcend the confines of the political spectrum. It is collaborative and living – in the sense that it contributes to the evolution of kaupapa Māori politics not just for Māori but to enrich the lives of everyone.
In a simpler context, for example, manaakitanga is exercised when we invite manuhiri (guests) into our whare (home) – and show them hospitality and kindness. Our mana increases, even if our manuhiri are ungrateful or disrespectful. It is our ability to rise above it that gives us strength of character to continue to manaaki them. It is beyond the liberal concept of tolerance but it does not mean we accept an action as being tika (right). Our role is to show our manuhiri how to be tika through our own actions and this is how mana enhancing works.
It’s important to note that tikanga and kaupapa Māori concepts are divergent and do differ within and between, whānau, hapū and iwi. I make this point here intentionally because recently I’ve written some pieces that have appeared to generalise or homogenise Māori. This was not my intention and I am truly sorry for the offense I have caused to those readers. I wholeheartedly believe and respect that Māori are diverse in our opinions and we will each view our politics in our own distinct ways. I know that I have a very long way to go in mastering the skill of manaakitanga, but I continue to make that journey and learn through my mistakes along the way.
But whatever Minto thought he was doing, it was an attack intended to delegitimise the kaupapa of the Māori Party, to sink its waka, so to speak.
In conclusion, Māori like everyone else, vote for many different reasons. Some will support their whanaunga, while others will support the kaupapa they believe resonates with their values. Some will consider bigger gains as emanating from inside a major party, while others will prefer the capacity of priority to be placed directly on Māori through mid-sized or smaller parties. But whatever the preference, it should never be about destroying another’s waka. Elections are naturally competitive and should remain so to give our people choice. But they are not about strategising to destroy a party in its entirety because they might threaten your own election chances. This kind of strategising is monopolistic, and the kind of thing that Dirty Politics warned against. Minto has employed Hager’s book as weapon rather than a tool. Speaks volumes.
*To avoid any doubt: I personally support socialism (of the anarchist branch) but in a form where kaupapa Māori is not a subordinate ideology, but the practice by which it is implemented.