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Modern Activism and the Potential for Cultural Conflicts

Pōwhiri is an important ceremony in Te Ao Māori. It begins with a wero from tangata whenua to the manuhiri (guests). When tangata whenua are satisfied manuhiri are there on friendly terms, the karanga is issued calling manuhiri onto the grounds.

But there may be occasions where cultural practices and modern activism come into conflict.

When Australian PM Tony Abbott visited Wellington, he was met by a justifiable resistance from local activists. After all, he has been instrumental in policy that has led to human and indigenous rights abuses. However, Minister Hekia Parata complained to Radio Waatea:

“As the karanga was being issued forth protesters were protesting for indigenous rights. It just shows me that there are different ways of respecting indigenous practices. One of them would have been to respect our indigenous practice here in New Zealand”

I have some sympathy with that argument. It seems rather empty to call for recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples if simultaneously disrespecting the customs of  local Indigenous Peoples.

At first glance, I did find it unsettling that protesters had allegedly disrespected the karanga during the pōwhiri. However, others  (who presumably attended) have suggested that protesters were well away from the pōwhiri such that any potential for disruption would have been negligible. So it might just be in this case, that there is no issue.

But that doesn’t mean that in the wider context of activism that this isn’t a potential issue.

I’m reminded of the Greenpeace activists that entered a sacred Peruvian site and damaged some of the Nazca lines in order to send a message to UN Climate Talk delegates.

When asking the question as to whether activist causes justify disrespecting cultural practices of the local Indigenous Peoples,  I had a straw man thrown at me. As if somehow, I were defending human rights abuses against refugees in Nauru and the forced closure of Aboriginal communities! I can unequivocally state here, that I absolutely abhor the human rights and indigenous rights abuses of the Australian government. I wholeheartedly support the call to solidarity with the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia and the Refugees in Nauru.

Acknowledging there are legitimate concerns about how activism can potentially flout the rights of Indigenous Peoples does not equate to supporting the perpetrators that protesters are dissenting against.

I am not raising this as an issue to distract from the causes. I think some activist communities should think more carefully about how their actions might have unintended consequences. I think activists ought to be mindful of the cultural practices of others particularly when consciously using culturally significant ceremonies, events and locations as the site of their activism.

 

 

 

 

 

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?

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.

 

 

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’.

 

Footnotes: 

[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) <www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=indigenous>

[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) <http://www.ecosystemmarketplace.com/pages/dynamic/article.page.php?page_id=9381&section=home&eod=1&gt; , as cited in First Peoples Worldwide “FPIC without FPIC” (online, 9 August 2013) <http://firstpeoples.org/wp/fpic-without-fpic/&gt;.

[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.

CTFL Bill: Submission

I made a submission today on the Counter Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill. I am mindful that I have not had a lot of time to give the text a great deal of contemplation, so some of the points raised may in fact be an overreaction and perhaps even misguided. Additionally, I have taken guidance/borrowed from others on many of the key points due to limitations on time. However, this is what happens when submission deadlines are so ridiculously short. This is also the first submission I’ve ever made, so the format is probably not great.

—- START

I oppose this Bill in its entirety for the reasons set out below.

1. Undemocratic process

I agree with the NZ Council on Civil Liberties that calls the process for making submissions on this bill ‘a farce’ and ‘a parody of good democratic’ practice.[1]

There is inadequate time for proper public consultation and for submitters to provide well-analysed and informed considerations.

The urgency under which the Bill is being passed is inconsistent with the language used in the Explanatory Note (‘The Note’) supporting the Bill. The Note indicates that the threat of terrorism is still very unlikely and that the threat level is ‘low’ which does not speak to the urgency this government is insisting upon.

This Bill must be withdrawn to allow for proper public consultation on the issues

2. Terrorism, Violent Extremism, and the slippery slope to Activism

The Note also indicates that the Bill is not restricted to ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ but also includes ‘other violent extremists locally, regionally and internationally’.[2] The Note states that ‘Government agencies have a watch list of between 30 and 40 people of concern in the foreign fighter context’ but that it also has another watch list of ‘30 to 40 on a list of people requiring further investigation’.[3] While the first group are alleged to be within the FTF context, that clearly does not mean those people pose an immediate threat or in fact any threat to NZ – as noted above, this government by its own admission says the threat is low despite it having 30-40 people on its FTF watch list.  Moreover, the manner in which violent extremism is covered under the UN resolution and the apparent extension of this to ‘people requiring further investigation’ is grossly excessive and beyond the requirements of the obligations set out in the resolution.[4]

There is no definition as to what this government considers ‘violent extremism’ which leaves the matter open to interpretation by the agencies invoking the powers provided and potentially places non-peaceful legitimate protest or activists in the grip of the SIS surveillance regime. The implications for freedom of expression have not been appropriately explored and the Bill must be withdrawn to prevent NZ from devolving into a Police State to quash any dissent.

This Bill appears to be built on the SIS experience of Operation 8, in which known activists and the communities within which they lived were subjected to excessive State force that has had a resounding impact on their lives.

This Bill simply legalises the activities carried out by the SIS during that operation, to avoid the Courts finding illegality in similar future cases. This is particularly obvious when in the Note, this government bemoans the fact that the SIS are currently not allowed to trespass nor install a visual surveillance device for the purpose of monitoring ‘people training with weapons’ – a direct reference to the language used by the SIS regarding Operation 8.

Since the Police and the SIS were unable to prosecute these activists under the Terrorism Suppression Act, the inclusion of the words ‘locally’ and ‘other violent extremists’ appears to have the purpose of extending surveillance powers to the activist community which is characteristic of an authoritarian regime.

3. Unwarranted Surveillance

The unwarranted surveillance for a 48-hour period is ambiguous. On the one hand, the Note says the SIS must meet the threshold for applying for a warrant before an authorisation is granted, but on the other hand implies that there need not be an intention to apply for a warrant provided there is an explanation provided after the fact. This suggests the ‘emergency’ of the authorisation is more about gathering intelligence that might provide grounds for a warrant application and effectively provides a free pass to the SIS to flout privacy laws for 48 hours.

4. Warranted Surveillance

The Bill proposes to infringe on property rights by legalising trespass for the SIS who may also install a visual surveillance device on private property and may keep any information they consider of interest once the warrant expires. That is incredibly broad and grossly intrusive.

5. Sunset Clause

The sunset clause implies this government don’t really believe the changes are appropriate but are creating loopholes for the SIS to gather intelligence on people without restriction, and unencumbered by the illegalities highlighted in the R v Hamed case concerning Operation 8 for the next few years.

6. Cancellation of Passport

Cancelling the passport s of New Zealnder’s who are overseas, leaves them stateless and those implications need to be properly investigated. As others have also pointed out, this provision appears to impose a ‘de facto sentence of exile by Ministerial fiat’.

Additionally, that this government can potentially render ‘suspected Māori’ stateless for a period of up to 3 years and consequently deny them the right to return to their turangawaewae, is surely in breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and this has not been properly addressed or explored.

7. Suspension of Passport

The temporary suspension of  passport’s infringes on the right to freedom of movement by allowing a Minister to determine if and when a person may travel internationally.

8. Secret Evidence

Extending the submission of classified evidence to Judicial Review proceedings is a breach of the principles of natural justice. That an accused person and their legal representative cannot challenge the evidence against them, is deeply unjust and undermines the credibility of the court system.

This government has also failed to take into account the consequences this legislation may have on social and cultural, religious minorities.

In particular, the Muslim community are likely to be unfairly targeted by the SIS given the Bill is anchored in the context of ISIL, ANF and Al Qaida. This builds on the stigma felt by Muslim communities and feeds the already existing Islamophobia in NZ. Moreover, the Bill could potentially alienate Muslim communities out of fear of being spied on ‘by association’.

The Government also have not considered that the Bill could incite a backlash if marginalised, minority and Indigenous groups are unfairly targeted by the SIS and the NZ Police under the extensive powers they are granted under this Bill.

Conclusion

Had there been more time available, I like other submitters may have also been able to better detail my concerns and give deeper consideration to the text of the Bill.

For all the reasons set out above, I oppose this Bill and request that it be withdrawn from urgency.

[1]NZCCL “Submission: Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill” (27 November 2014) http://nzccl.org.nz/sites/default/files/NZCCL%20Submission%20on%20Countering%20Terrorist%20Fighters%20Legislation%20Bill_0.pdf

[2] Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill, Explanatory Note, at 1.

[3] At 1.

[4] UNSC Res 2178 at para 18.

Note: I gained a lot of assistance from No Right Turn’s blog which provided an incredibly succinct and helpful summary of the key contentions here: http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2014/11/submission-guide-countering-terrorist.html

The Labour Party and Māori

Not an exhaustive list but remember that time when:

  • Helen Clarke rammed through legislation so that Māori couldn’t test customary title claims to the Foreshore and Seabed resulting in the Hikoi
  • Annette King then Minister of Police, organised Operation 8 culminating in the lock down of Ruatoki and the detainment of the entire community, including the holding of children at gunpoint
  • Trevor Mallard tried to claim that he and in fact all New Zealand descendents of early settlers are Indigenous (that was around the time of the Foreshore and Seabed Act
  • Labour refused to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and rejected the government signing it in 2010
  • David Cunliffe explicitly questioned the ‘mental health’ of a Māori protester for the act of protesting not long after he had proclaimed the Labour Party to be the Māori party
  • Labour ruled out working closely, i.e. constructively with either MANA or the Māori Party should they be in a position to form the next government

Lastly, remember how:

Oh, if you don’t remember that, it’s because it just happened. Don’t forget that next time you think that Labour have the aspirations of Māori at the forefront of their policy. Two Māori, two Pasifika and 13 Pākehā representatives comprise the top 17 list placings. Also, note that there are fewer women now down to five from seven.

To be honest, I was surprised that there wasn’t a greater Māori presence in Labour’s front bench line-up. But I’m not sure why given the tenuous history between Labour and it’s seemingly consistent attitude toward Māori. It’s not just a slap in the face for Māori. It’s also a kicker for those Labour Party supporters who have been active advocates for Māori and other marginalised groups. Additionally, if this is the team the executive believe can bring Labour out of destruction mode then it should serve as a warning to Māori that mutual reciprocity of support is not exactly forthcoming.[1]

 

[1] Note, the National Party and the Greens (the other two bigger parties), are not largely different in terms of Māori representation in their top 17 places. There are three Māori in National’s top 17 and four in the Greens. Although to be fair to the Greens they also have a history of advocacy for Māori that shouldn’t be ignored.

Money is a Hallmark of Sovereignty

Incorporating Te Reo Māori as wide as possible is critical to the survival of our language. Initially, I’d thought it was great to see Te Reo increasingly used and recognised in formal institutions. Yet, I find myself in two minds about its inclusion on New Zealand’s banknotes and I wonder about the implications of incorporating Te Reo into the national monetary complex.

Money is a controversial topic in economics and in general. I don’t here pretend to be any kind of expert. However, I do think it is important to unpack the risks to Māori of our language being incorporated into the sovereign currency. Especially in the context of the Waitangi Tribunal’s recent finding that Māori never ceded sovereignty to the Crown when signing Te Tiriti o Waitangi.  A view already established by many Māori.

I do appreciate the Reserve Bank’s intention to be inclusive by acknowledging “Te Reo as one of New Zealand’s official languages”.  And I understand, for some people it’s just be words on a bit of a paper. For others, it may even strengthen the vision of  the ‘partnership’ between Māori and the Crown by putting te reo in perpetual circulation via paper money.  Others suggest it represents a step forward for race relations in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Personally, I’m not inclined to accept that it reflects partnership at all nor am I convinced its a ‘step forward’ for race relations. It reeks of status quo integration and arguably implies that Māori have no future interest in creating our own currency to reflect our  tino rangatiratanga status.  Additionally, there is an obvious power imbalance in the fact that only the Crown can decree banknotes legal tender and only the Crown can issue fiat money. Arguably, inclusion of te reo intends to remove the desire of Māori to push for rights over money creation that reflect our values and language. It’s a placative move by the economic powers to avoid discussions with Māori on sovereign currency. It spells out indirectly that there is no intention of Māori ever attaining power to create our own currency and we should just be satisfied with the tokenism of our language on Crown banknotes.

My concern in its most cynical form then, is that inclusion of te reo is intended to evade future discussions of the right of Māori to develop our own sovereign currency.

Perhaps the move by the Reserve Bank fosters the idea that sovereignty in Aotearoa New Zealand is not restricted to the Crown, but is inclusive of Māori. However, that view would be inconsistent with the Reserve Banks comments which were clearly about language recognition. So I doubt any broader intention can be drawn from such a clear act of tokenism. As such, I think that the Reserve Bank proceeded with their decision to incorporate te reo prematurely. They ought to have consulted with Māori on the broader implications of incorporating Te Reo Māori on banknotes allowing time for discussion, debate, and submissions. Merely seeking advice from institutions about which words were most appropriate simply wasn’t enough. Of course, I may be stretching it a bit in presuming that the Reserve Bank’s actions actually limit the development of a Māori currency. However, as is often the case, intentions can be contextualised through surrounding circumstances and it is precisely the lack of consultation, the avoidance of addressing the wider implications, and the symbolism embraced by an industry that peripherises Māori, that drew out my inner-cynic.

Why I am taking exception? Perhaps, I am overthinking it. But money is a hallmark of sovereignty.  And given our sovereignty was recently recognised by the Waitangi Tribunal I wanted to draw attention to the connection between money and sovereignty as an issue that requires further consideration by Māori in this context.

The frenemies posture on the neoliberal rant train

As the frenemies posture, others hold out hope for at least a semblance of peace among the fractured left. The day after Andrew Little’s election, not even having held the role long enough to confer with his caucus and set policy directions, should-be allies jump on the neo-liberal rant train.

The centring of neo-liberalism in NZ political discourse is not achieving what it intended to. It hasn’t birthed a revolution, and it won’t as long as the same voices continue making the same noise and that noise is no longer provocative. If anything, it’s a cacophony of plagiarising wannabe Chomsky regurgitators. I love Chomsky, but I despair at people that use his anarchism to justify or at least bolster their State socialism bent.  And no, it’s not a matter of just accepting the status quo – but rather steering discussions toward a more constructive terrain.

Keen readers of Chomsky will understand that his view of the State is only that it is preferable to what he calls ‘private corporate tyrannies.’ The State is not the end-game.

Thing is, neo-liberals and State socialists share some common ground: both think the State is an appropriate regulatory vehicle and both need the State to pursue their ideological goals. Neo-liberals need it to make laws that grant property titles in individuals and to enforce contracts as well as to offer some sort of military defence against threats to the security of their property. The other need the State to own the means of production in order to wed individuals to the State to maintain State power. And to provide military defence against aggressions and the individualism considered to breed corporate monopolies.

Neither values the right of peoples to self-determination and both think that identities are inconsequential to the greater good because both think their ideologies are the fairest and will single-handedly solve all crises.

Either way, the NZ political system is some way off from seeing any real change in outcomes – no matter who leads the government. And our micro- and minor- parties are hardly offering anything fresh because they are centring debates on bringing the system down, and then contradicting that discussion by choosing to ally with a party they don’t actually support, rather than concentrating on building a new system that renders the old one obsolete. What I heard over and over again during the election, was that people didn’t want to hear about what system we have and why it was so bad. Voters mostly know this even if they aren’t familiar with the academic nuances, because they know privilege and hierarchy when they see it and experience the effects of it.

People want hope. They want to be able to imagine the possibilities, not as some fictional utopia but for a path to be mapped out – even if it’s incomplete, because even that leaves room for participation and responsiveness.

I’m not convinced Andrew Little will be able to tame the Labour Party’s destructive side. However,  he may (yet to be seen) be able to offer hope and if he can do that, then he may just lift the party out of its quandary. Only time will tell.

 

Thinking about economic self-determination

International trade is often a polarising debate. Some insist that absolute free trade will cure world poverty, while others insist it would do the exact opposite and intensify it.  The reality is, that international trade does in part, do both those things. In many cases, it has improved people’s lives, for instance, in some South East Asian countries there was a migration from agriculture to manufacturing and a boom in small to medium enterprises which changed the economic landscape in those countries and also provided opportunities to people beyond traditional vocations. But it has also destroyed the livelihoods of other people, in particular, indigenous communities through land and resource exploitation, cultural appropriation, through the refusal to recognise the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

One thing we need to understand about the international trade system is that while it is based on principles of inter alia free trade and non-discrimination, it does have special and differential treatment mechanisms to assist countries whose economies are not ‘developed’ by allowing developed countries (who trade with developing countries) to deviate from the ‘non-discrimination’ obligation and in fact encourages them to do so under certain conditions. Additionally, the preference giving countries are prohibited from coercing or inducing concessions from the developing country because a key feature of special and differential treatment is non-reciprocity.

I don’t intend here to give a full run down of the international trade system or the WTO, but recently I wrote an essay on the Enabling Clause and Indigenous Peoples, and thought I’d provide a brief summary of what I wrote about.

Firstly, the concept of ‘Indigenous’ is still hotly contested – not just among those who decry indigeneity, but by Indigenous Peoples themselves. For the most part of their recent histories (by recent I mean, around 500 years), Indigenous Peoples have had their identities imposed on them. So when international bodies attempt to define for them who they are, it’s no wonder such attempts are met with strong resistance. The first major study done on ‘Indigenous Peoples’ at international law was by Jose Martinez Cobo. The working definition he composed is the most widely accepted today because it acknowledged the multiple layers of identity. Others have suggested and I agree with them, that Indigenous Peoples are distinct from other marginalised or minority groups because each distinct Indigenous group is constituted in much the same way as a ‘nation’, rather than say a ‘feminist group’, or the ‘working class’. Marginalised groups share a concern about the ruling elite but don’t have a system of shared values, connections to specific geographies, or purging of their culture and language through forced integration. This isn’t suggesting that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are superior and that as a result they ought to be accorded ‘more’ special treatment, rather that the outcomes Indigenous Peoples seek are distinct from the outcomes sought by marginalised groups, so the paths to self-determination while they may at times intersect, are not synonymous. I also talked about the potential harm that pro-indigenous but non-indigenous individuals or groups can have on Indigenous Peoples by purporting to speak on their behalf in order to advance their own issues.  In my paper, I didn’t attempt to define or describe Indigenous Peoples although I did argue that self-identification must be the starting point (i.e. it’s not sufficient on its own) for invoking international instruments pertaining to Indigenous Peoples.

In the second part, I talked a bit about globalisation and how a new progeny of Indigenous resistance movements has been born in response to the challenges of new globalisation (noting that globalisation is not a new phenomenon). I argued that globalisation was multivariate incorporating markets, States and most importantly people, and that by focusing on only one of these aspects provides a rather thin conception of globalisation. I then proposed that the concept of Indigenous rights is not inherently incompatible with globalisation, provided discussions on globalisation focused on the implications it has for people, which would then raise issues of meaningful consultation and consent (including the right to grant or withdraw consent).  After that I discussed the development of WTO law (generally) focusing on the Enabling Clause and talked about the significance of the inclusion of the Treaty of Waitangi exception clause in all (but one) of New Zealand’s international trade agreements currently in force. The Treaty clause is interesting because it indulges the language of the WTO allowing the Crown to provide ‘more favourable treatment’ to Māori with respect to obligations arising under the Treaty, and exempting issues arising under the Treaty from determination by ad hoc international tribunals. I figured, if at the national level, Māori can receive special treatment in terms of economic development issues arising under the Treaty, then why couldn’t this extend to the WTO for all Indigenous Peoples?

My motivation was this: how do we improve the economies of Indigenous Peoples, especially those who are subsumed under their national economies in which they most often participate at the periphery? My proposal was basically, expanding the Enabling Clause to include the phrase ‘developing economies’ and incorporating the finding in the EC –Tariff Preferences case in which the Appellate Body said that discrimination between developing countries was not prohibited under the Enabling Clause, provided the country or countries challenging the discrimination were not ‘similarly situated’ to the country or countries receiving the benefits. The reason I saw this as valuable, was that I thought it acted as a bit of a hand brake on abuse of the Enabling Clause by countries attempting to define their situations as ‘developing economies’ to take advantage of preferential treatment provisions. I thought that using the phrase ‘developing economies’ was flexible enough to be responsive to countries who were developed but who experienced economic collapse placing them at a similar economic disadvantage as Indigenous Peoples groups and other developing countries. I also suggested incorporating the words Indigenous Peoples, my only concern was the issue of definition but I did note that ‘developing economies’ would capture Indigenous Peoples economies. The reason I wanted to at least start the discussion on Indigenous Peoples and participation in the WTO was that I wanted to find a way to forge a path for economic self-determination. In my mind, the idea of a dual economy is not only interesting but also a way to steer Māori toward tino rangatiratanga by having the means to  take control of our own trade policy and to manage the distributional effects of that in the interests of our people.

 

Briefly on “Women in NZ Politics” blog

Earlier this year, I started a website called Women in NZ Politics. I sent out an unofficial message seeking expressions of interest. The response was fantastic, so I pursued it. I developed a questionnaire that focused mostly on womens issues then sent it out to pretty much all women candidates (well, those I was able to locate email addresses for) explaining what the site was about and inviting their contributions. Again, many replied stating they were willing to participate. I received a few responses, and later sent out a reminder. Some who’d said they’d participate didn’t return their questionnaires while others replied explaining why they were unable to. I completely appreciate that election year is a busy time and that there are other more pressing items on the agenda, so I was absolutely humbled by those who took the time to complete the questionnaire and share their views. They gave me a completely new level of respect for their work and values by demonstrating that they were both openly and actively willing to awhi other women in their pursuits.

I have decided to keep the site going and prepare for next election, but am just considering different ideas about how to keep it interesting to attract more contributions. Any ideas are welcome!

But I’d just like to say a special thanks to the following contributors, for taking the time to complete the questionnaire and being so open with their responses, which were received with much respect: