Jan 26, 2014

Winston’s comments overshadowed the real issues at Rātana

It’s a real shame that Winston Peters decided to launch his latest dog-whistle attack while waiting to be welcomed on to Rātana Pā on Friday. As was predictable, his comments became the major story of the day in the media, and they distracted from the very real kaupapa that were raised by the Rātana people themselves as politicians came to honour the birthday of the prophet Tahupotiki Wiremu Rātana. 

Te Temepara Tapu, Rātana Pā
For those who were lucky enough not to hear Winston’s comments, he essentially referred to the Māori Party’s policy gains in Government as “apartheid”. Supposedly, flying the Tino Rangatiratanga flag on Auckland Harbour Bridge, whānau ora, and separate Māori prison units are all apartheid policies. 

For Winston, this is all about electioneering. He is playing to his core constituency with these dog-whistle tactics. The desperate tone of his comments reveal a politician of a by-gone era trying to stay relevant. 

The comments were inappropriate given where he was speaking – one of T.W Rātana’s primary goals was the just restitution of Te Tiriti of Waitangi, a goal which he essentially disparaged with his attack on the Māori Party. They were also hugely inappropriate considering how recently Nelson Mandela passed away, a leader of the liberation movement that broke the stranglehold of real apartheid - a brutal, racist and completely inhumane regime. To compare that with the Māori Party's policies is extremely offensive.

I had the privilege of listening to and contributing to the kōrero on the paepae that day. We were informed by te iwi mōrehu (followers of the Rātana faith), of the realities of the day-to-day lives of their people. They implored political parties to work together for the benefit of the Māori people. Their key proposals were for a strong regional development strategy, investment in reducing youth unemployment, warm dry housing and an inclusive education system that equips tamariki and rangatahi with skills required for the jobs of the 21st Century. 

These are the issues that should have been debated in the media, and the issues political leaders should have been asked for comment on. But no, Winston’s strategy of grabbing the media attention with hyperbole worked for him – as it always does.

Kōtahitanga and the Labour-Green relationship 

The Labour and Green parties were welcomed on to the marae together – as has been the case for the last several years. Labour had a large delegation of MPs and candidates and the Greens were represented by co-leader Metiria Turei, Māori Green MPs Denise Roche and David Clendon, and candidates Marama Davidson and myself (Jack McDonald). 

Labour the Greens being welcomed on to Rātana
One thing that was very apparent was the health of the Lab-Green relationship; both parties work well together and are driven by many of the same core values, both are committed to raising the living standards of Māori, and working in collaboration for the benefit of all New Zealanders. 

Māori expect the parties of the Left to work together and embrace kōtahitanga. To honour Te Tiriti and eliminate poverty, we must change the government. Neither Labour nor the Greens can do that without the other. It's imperative that these parties look and act like a government-in-waiting, ready to get stuck in and work together so they can hit the ground running in the first 100 days of a new progressive government.

Of course the parties have their differences, some substantial, and the debate over risky deep sea oil drilling is a timely reminder of that. That is the nature of MMP and those differences can be thrashed out in post-election negotiations. 

At the end of the day, both Labour and the Greens need to listen to the teachings of T.W Rātana, who always stressed kōtahitanga and unity. Nothing less will improve the lives of those who need us most; the vulnerable, the disillusioned and marginalised in our society.

Post by Jack McDonald

1 comment:

  1. Seriously who walks onto Ratana Pa and complains about reverse racism (In favour of Maori). Good old Winston preaching his populists redneck rheteoric. but I would rather have him than Colin Craig who might actually act on it. As New Zealanders we need to accept is there will always be a redneck vote.



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