The problem with any identity-based political movement is it pre-supposes that the common identity of its members surpasses their conflicting class interests. This has been brought to a head at the Maori Party national conference as Tariana Turia angrily denounced criticism of the Maori elite from the Left faction.
Speaking about the mysterious and self-appointed Iwi Leadership Forum that has appeared out of nowhere to negotiate the foreshore and seabed deal in secret with the Government, Turia said:
“I find it really difficult when we come into hui and we listen to people denigrate those of our iwi leaders who have sat at that table…and I wont have anybody in this room, and I’ll only say this once, I will never allow you to speak against our iwi leadership. You have no right to.”
That is, the elite is always right and criticism from the hoi polloi is not going to be tolerated.
Turia directed some of her criticism at Hone Harawira in particular. The founding principle of the Maori Party was that it wouldn’t be a strictly whipped party like the ‘Pakeha parties’ – MPs were elected by the iwi of their electorates and that gave them the mana and the mandate to vote as they thought best, even if that went against the rest of the party. Now, Harawira is exercising that right over the new foreshore Bill, and Turia has decided that freedom is nice in theory but in reality she wants five votes that she controls:
“Why are we there? Do we think that we hold the rangatiratanga for whanau, hapu and iwi. We don’t. We are part of kawanatanga. Our job is to try to be the most powerful advocate that we can be on any one day in that parliamentary environment.
There is not a day goes by where we are not having a stoush about something and so we should. that’s what we have been put there for. But let’s not get our roles mixed up with those of the hapu and iwi and let’s not keep denigrating those of our leaders who do get to the table….
… And so you know sometimes we come out and we listen to people making huge statements which basically not only undermine Pita and I as the leaders in the parliamentary environment but I have had to sit through hui after hui where people have undermined the leadership of matua Whatarangi [past president Whatarangi Winiata] and I want to tell you that those days are over. Those days are over.
All of us have to stand shoulder to shoulder for one another”
What is that other than a declaration of war on the Left faction of the Maori Party and a sign that Turia wants to implement uncontested control of the party’s direction?
It’ll be interesting to see how the Left faction, that has coalesced around Harawira and Annette Sykes, reacts. There’s talk of a new foreshore hikoi, directed against the support of the majority of the Maori Party and most of the other parties for the new foreshore Bill that does little more than rearrange the words of the existing law.
PS. I was going to write something about the three months late Whanau Ora announcement that finally took place on Friday. But, frankly, bugger all was announced. I still have no idea what Whanau Ora is meant to do, let alone when they’ll do it.