Aug 25, 2011
Controversy erupts in the Maori Council
Controversy has erupted in another Maori organisation. The New Zealand Maori Council is making waves with the news that senior Council member Maanu Paul has been expelled for speaking publicly on behalf of the organisation. After falling ill last year Chairman Sir Graham Latimer appointed Maanu Paul to act on his behalf. However, the Executive Committee held that Sir Graham was acting unilaterally and did not have the power to make such an appointment. The Executive Committee argues that in Sir Graham’s absence the elected Deputy Chair, Richard Orzecki, acts in the Chairpersons role.
Maanu Paul has been acting under the title of executive chairman and commenting on a number issues including the Councils activities surrounding an impending treaty claim. The claim concerns Maori rights to fresh water. This clearly got up the nose of the Council members, but mainly the Deputy Chair, and they have resorted to the strongest response possible – expulsion. However, Maanu Paul maintains that he has not been sacked and will continue to comment publicly until Sir Graham directs him otherwise.
This internal strife speaks to the growing irrelevance of the Maori Council and is illustrative of the growing political conflict in the Maori world. The National Government has selected the Iwi Leaders Group (ILG) as their Maori vehicle of choice when it comes to consultation and access. The problem for the Maori Council is that they are a creature of Statute (The Maori Welfare Act 1962) and, consequently, relies on the acquiesce of the government of the day. On the other hand the ILG set their own mandate and enjoy access to their own capital, i.e. the government does not fund them and, therefore, cannot strangle them when they fall out of favour. The Maori Council is also, ideologically speaking, non-aligned with the current government whereas the ILG falls firmly in line with the Nat’s ideological position (e.g. privatisation). The Maori Council is creating issues for the government, for example by fuelling debate on Maori rights to fresh water, while the ILG is actively supporting the government’s asset sales campaign. It is easy to see why the government has turned to the ILG at the expense of the Maori Council.
The battle within in the Maori Council is also indicative of the larger political conflict occurring within the Maori world. At its most obvious the conflict is typified by the conflict between the Mana Party (representing the working class) and the Maori Party (representing the Maori ruling class interests). There is also conflict in Tainui between Te Arataura (the Tainui elite) and Te Kauhanganui (the Tainui people at large). Also the Maori Women’s Welfare League between Hannah Tamaki and Destiny (the Maori elite) and the traditional members (the people at large). Of course it is more complex than just a battle between the poor and the elite, but at its most simplistic we are seeing a class conflict.
I also wonder whether Maanu’s connections to the Maori Party have anything to do with his expulsion. Maanu is one the Party’s most prominent and vocal supporters. It will be interesting to know whether his connections and pro-Maori Party/National Party actions were getting up the nose of the increasingly left-wing Maori Council.
I’ll be following this story very closely and update any further developments.