- Māori Issues
Since 2008 Māori have started clawing back a few hard-earned rights. We had hoped that the Pākehā majority generally supported these. But our hopes were dashed over the past year as first the media and then the government launched racist attacks on various segments of the Māori community as part of its ongoing agenda to maintain Pākehā hegemony, that is, the retention of control of the country's resources, wealth, and privilege in Pākehā hands. Māori managed to withstand the onslaught and stand firm in the face of determined efforts to undermine our leadership. However, along the way we lost several important leaders, including our entertainer extraordinaire, Sir Howard Morrison, with his beautiful voice, dazzling showmanship, and unique Māori sense of humor. We lost him in September 2009. Then in May 2010, our internationally renowned film-maker, Merata Mita, who produced a number of outstanding television and film documentaries on the Māori struggle against Pākehā oppression and racism, passed away.
Much of the Pākehā media animosity toward Māori in the past year focused on the Māori Party members of Parliament (MPS), and one in particular. The media had been sniping for some time with headlines such as "Māori Activists on Warpath" (Sunday News, 28 June 2009) and "MP'S Uncle to Lead Māori Sovereignty Protests" (NZPA, 28 June 2009), referring to Māori Party MP Hone Harawira; "Government Scuppers Māori TV's Bid for Rugby Rights" (NZH, 13 Oct 2009); and "Luck Running Out for Gaffe-prone Sharples" (NZH, 17 Oct 2009), referring to the party's co-leader, the Honorable Dr Pita Sharples. Late in October unauthorized MP spending came under parliamentary and media scrutiny, and several members were targeted. At the time, Hone Harawira was part of a parliamentary delegation to Geneva for a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the world organization of parliaments. During that meeting he sought and was given permission for leave to go to Paris for a day with his wife, a private trip that he paid for himself. On 3 November he reported the visit, and the permission to go, in his weekly column in the Northland Age. Pākehā media immediately dropped its investigation of unauthorized spending by other members of Parliament and turned their sights on Harawira's trip to Paris, attacking him for using New Zealand taxpayers' money, when in fact he had not. The Māori Party issued a press statement answering [End Page 227] the media questioning (Māori Party 2009a), and the matter should have ended there.
However, among the numerous threatening and abusive private e-mails Harawira received on the matter (pers comm, 10 Nov 2009) was one from an individual known for his attacks on his own Māori people (Mutu 2007). Most unwisely, Harawira dashed off an angry but private response in which he used English expletives to remind the individual of the widely published history of ongoing stealing, raping, and pillaging by Pākehā of Māori and our lands and resources.
For an unscrupulous and unprincipled person this presented an opportunity for media exposure, which some elements of Pākehā media in this country could be relied on to fully exploit. After his visit in 2005, Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, had issued a damning report in which he stated, "Public media should be encouraged to provide a balanced, unbiased and non-racist picture of Māori in New Zealand society" (Stavenhagen 2006). But that advice has been ignored, and Māaori who raise the issue of Pākehā atrocities committed against Māori are still typically vilified by members of the Pākehā media.
So the unscrupulous opportunist immediately released the private e-mail from Harawira to the media and then exploited the resulting frenzy, giving numerous interviews to Pākehā media. However, Māori media were much less tolerant of his behavior. He had miscalculated the level of support for Harawira in the Māori community, and particularly in his...