I remain unconvinced that a hikoi is a step forward in terms of opposition to the inadequate MCA bill. First of all, I doubt that Wikatana Popata possesses the organisational skills required to co-ordinate an effective, not to mention large scale, protest. I also doubt that he has skilled people behind him. One could argue that he proved his leadership ability and organisational skill at Waitangi, however there is a significant difference between organising a group of 200 people with whom you have personal connections and co-ordinating a protest connecting politically inactive and disparate groups across the North Island.
Secondly, the government is immovable. If anything a hikoi is a gift to the government. Hikoi are a great way to create anti-Maori sentiment. The government will appear strong and principled in the eyes of non-Maori if it refuses to shift position and offer Maori no further concessions. The government has nothing to fear from a hikoi, it’s none of their voters protesting after all. Certainly it is a golden opportunity for the government to stick it to those cry baby land grabbing Maoris. An easy PR victory.
Thirdly, the Maori Party appears immovable as well. Their logic is clear – this is the best that can be achieved at this point in time. Although I disagree with such a defeatist attitude there is a small pinch of truth to it, but that does not make it right. The party’s challenge to their people is essentially – come up with a better way forward or shut up. Therefore, I do not think a hikoi which is offering no answers will be of much interest. Unless of course that hikoi involves a significant amount of people. Which brings me to my next point.
There is not a significant amount of popular discontent with the bill. Yes, many iwi are disappointed, yes, many of the party’s members are disappointed and, yes, many Maori political commentators are disappointed. Yet disappointment among these groups has not translated to popular disappointment. In tough economic times concepts such as mana whenua are relegated to the back of people’s minds. Wages, benefits, prices and so on dominate people’s political thinking. Correcting historical injustice and delivering on the promise of the treaty is such an intangible concept. It lacks immediacy and is ultimately a secondary concern for many Maori.
In the end I support the idea of a hikoi against the MCA bill. Whether that hikoi will result in any gains is open. I remain sceptical. Having said that I do hope to be proved wrong and The Maori Party should be very, very worried.
Hat tip Whenua Fenua Enua Vanua