Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Hone Show

Further developments this week in the debacle that is the Hone Harawira show. It appears that he has finally outlived his welcome within the Maori Party, and neither of the co-leaders, Tariana Turia and Dr Pita Sharples, would be too upset if he were to leave. Remember back in 2005, when he referred to them both as "square buggers" and "dull and lifeless"? I'm sure they still do!

I think this is a promising move by the Maori Party, and an encouraging step in their evolution from a reactionary grouping of disaffected radicals to a fully fledged mainstream political party. If they wish to be taken seriously, and if they wish to attract the vital non-Maori vote, they cannot afford to be linked to this racist firebrand.

It has been a difficult two weeks for Turia and Sharples, but this could well be the best thing that has happened to their party since ... well, since the seabed and foreshore legislation which created it, I guess. The sooner they shed the non-compromising separatists from their party, the better it will be for all of us. Just a couple of weeks ago I was talking with a friend of mine, who happens to be part Maori, about how well the Maori Party seems to have done since signing the confidence and supply agreement with National. The Maori TV World Cup bid fiasco aside, having Sharples and Turia as ministers has been a positive move by the National government and has wrong-footed the Labour Party, which can no longer resort to its classic claim that National is racist and only Labour truly represents Maori.

The most upsetting thing about the fiasco is the latent and unrepressed racism that it has evoked, from both Maori and non-Maori. I was so ashamed and embarrassed to hear Turia speak of the abusive emails she had received that I immediately wrote her an email myself, expressing my admiration for the way in which she and Sharples have divorced themselves from Harawira's rhetoric. I would encourage all other fair minded NZers to do the same; let it not be said that racism rules the roost in this country!

At the same time, this whole incident has proved to me that the time has come for a real debate in this country - free, fair, brutally honest, and no holds barred, but without the animosity, labels, race-bashing and seething resentment which seem to dominate the extreme radicals. True enough, the 1940s version of NZ history is somewhat different from today's, but I think most people will acknowledge that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction now. The colonists who arrived with and after the Treaty should be seen as nation builders, not rapacious land thieves. Wrongs were committed, yes, but Maori were not completely innocent - many chiefs and tribes played the game and 'sold' the same land (to which, in some cases, they did not even have a claim) to more than one agent. Likewise, greedy land purchasers and speculators sought to take everything they could get their hands on, and the land confiscations following the Northern, Waikato, and Taranaki Wars seem to have targetted the wrong tribes in many cases. But we, as a nation, need to be able to draw a line in the sand; to acknowledge that our foundation may not have been glorious, but that our future can be. What that future will be must be discussed; we must forge ahead as one people, e pluribus unum, he iwi tahi tatou, if we are to have the kind of future which we all deserve.

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