Written By: - Date published: 8:08 am, August 4th, 2016 - 181 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, foreshore and seabed, helen clark, humour, International, Maori Issues, maori party, twitter - Tags: #KiwiTreason, foreshore and seabed, helen clark, maori party, Secretary-General of the United Nations
So. Helen Clark wants to be Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Māori Party came out this week and said they didn’t support her because of her actions against Māori and Indigenous peoples while she was Prime Minister of New Zealand. All hell broke loose, with the Māori Party being accused of treachery and treason.
Then Mr Dutton Peabody created the hashtag #KiwiTreason to poke the borax at the people accusing the Māori Party of treason. He started with the perfidious declaration that he doesn’t like feijoa, and away it went. Stuff picked it up, thought it was about Kiwiana, and now #KiwiTreason is trending. All the usual twitter fun.
On a more serious note, Graham Cameron at First We Take Manhattan wrote a blog post on not expecting Māori to fall in behind Clark’s bid, given how serious her abuse of Māori was during her time as PM. The whole post is an essential piece of reading for those who have forgotten what the Foreshore and Seabed Act did, or why it was so important to Māori.
In case you are not sure what all the fuss was about, in 1997 Māori in the Marlborough Sounds applied to the Māori Land Court for determination as to whether their foreshore and seabed was Māori customary land. Before that court could rule, the High Court ruled that all that land was in Crown ownership. But at the Court of Appeal, this was overturned and referred back to the Māori Land Court. The Labour led government lost the plot and created the Foreshore and Seabed Act which vested all the foreshore and seabed in Crown ownership and restricted Māori rights to test their ownership of the foreshore and seabed in the Māori Land Court. Simply put, the Crown instituted the largest land grab in the last 160 years and removed the rights to go to the courts on the basis of our ethnicity.
Morgan Godfery at Overland explains the ‘sinister edge’ and historical context of accusing Marama Fox of being a traitor. Again, read the whole thing if you want to understand how this has played out for Māori.
At this point, we’re in the twilight zone and the looking glass is in a thousand pieces. Accusing a Māori woman of treason isn’t neutral. The subtext here is clear: Indigenous people should put the national interest (and the national ego) before their own. This trick functions in two parts. On one level, it’s an invitation to assimilation – ‘Indigenous people should just identify with the national interest and back Clark’ – but it also works as a tool of exclusion, implying that Indigenous interests aren’t part of the national interest (‘there they go special pleading again’).
But let’s reframe that: what is Clark doing to earn Indigenous support? Labour leftists find the question offensive. This is, after all, the prime minister responsible for establishing a state-owned bank and a national superannuation fund, lifting the minimum wage and introducing tax credits and paid parental leave for working people. At one point, the governor-general, the PM, the speaker of the house and the chief justice were all women.
This is what progress looks like, apparently, and means leftists should support Clark as a matter of course, or something like that. But while Clark and her government were shattering gender norms and tinkering with neoliberalism at its edges, they were also responsible for enacting the most dramatic land confiscation in more than a century. I’ll concede that Clark’s an effective social democrat, even, perhaps, a prime minister who left the country in better shape than she found it, but she isn’t a champion for human rights.
I don’t really have an opinion about whether Clark should get the job or not, but I do think that Māori in particular have the right to their own politics on this, and that the rest of us, especially within the progressive left, should be listening when Māori say there is a problem here. Is not one of the basic premises of enlightened politics that people have a right to define what is important to them?
Cameron ends with,
She has a few apologies to make and some work to do before we can start talking about being a family again.
Where others might hear treachery, I see a pathway to forgiveness.