Writing as a grindstone. Finished writing, unfinished writing, writing ideas, things that I'll never get round to writing, other things. Grinding it out, grinding away. Writing some more.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Māori Party politicians behave like politicians

The response of the Māori Party to perceived criticisms from Hone Harawira appears both arrogant and desperate. Te Ururoa Flavell has lodged a complaint with the Māori Party National Council. The complaint relates to an article Crunch time for Maori grumbles in the Sunday Star Times last weekend. His complaint is supported by Tariana Turia, Pita Sharples and Rahui Katene. The Council is seeking legal advice from Mai Chen, whose comments to Radio New Zealand imply that the Māori Party is considering expelling Harawira.

Harawira's article was surprisingly diplomatic. His article is balanced, thoughtful and positive. He discusses where the Māori Party has come from, their achievements so far, the problems they are currently facing, and where he thinks they should be focusing their efforts for the election this year. I think most Māori Party voters would agree with his analysis.

According to Harawira, the Māori Party's problem is its relationship with National, which links it to “anti-worker, anti-beneficiary and anti-environment (and therefore anti-Maori) legislation”. Before the Māori Party confidence and supply agreement with the National Party, the two parties voted the same way 30% of the time, now they vote together 60% of the time. Either the National Party has become a lot more pro-Māori, or the Māori Party has become less. High profile examples, such as the emissions trading scheme and the Marine and Coastal Areas bill, suggest that it is the Māori Party that has shifted—as Harawira implies.

As far as representative democracy goes, his suggestions are positive and reasonable. The Māori Party should:
  • represent their constituency
  • fight for what they want, not what they think they can get
  • oppose policies that are bad for Māori
  • oppose the Marine and Coastal Areas bill
  • build better relationships with the Green Party and the Labour Party
  • encourage diversity within the Māori Party
  • get back on the road and talk to the people

I am interested to know what it is in Harawira's analysis that Flavell mā are so offended by. If they had been listening, they would have already heard much stronger criticisms of the Party's direction from their members and past members. Perhaps they trust National and the Iwi Leaders Forum to tell them what is best for Māori. Perhaps they spend too much time trying to shut down dissent, and not enough time listening to their constituents.

I am reminded of these words of Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed): "In a situation of manipulation, the Left is almost always tempted by a 'quick return to power,' forgets the necessity of joining with the oppressed to forge an organization, and strays into an impossible 'dialogue' with the dominant elites. It ends by being manipulated by these elites, and not infrequently itself falls into an elitist game, which it calls 'realism.'"

This is where I think the Māori Party are at—more concerned with building relationships with those in power, whether the National Party or Māori elites, while Harawira is the only MP who seems serious about maintaining relationships with Māori people. Whose interests are the Māori Party serving? Who are they representing? Who do they expect to vote for them? If they think Harawira is their biggest problem, they really are out of touch.


  1. Anonymous7:55 pm

    The first link in the article doesn't seem to work :(

  2. Thanks for letting me know, should work now

  3. Bryce Edwards has a good article too

  4. Kia ora kim

    I tautoko your post and your last paragraph is right on the money. I have a hope that an alternative maori party could be developed but perhaps if a great epiphany occured to Pita and Tariana they might step aside and the current party could be rehabilitated. I don't like the idea of Hone being independant or part of a new Left Party - jeepers maybe he could join the greens :)

    I enjoy your posts - kia kaha.

  5. Thanks Marty, my most recent post started life as a response to your comment, but apparently I can't write anything short. I've been enjoying your blog too--Aoraki matatū.