KUPAPA – that was the name they gave to the Maori who cooperated with the British colonists. The colonial authorities’ terminology was somewhat kinder. They dubbed these collaborators the Queen’s ‘‘Loyal Maoris’’ and erected statues in their honour (one still stands on Auckland’s Symonds St).
How ironic, then, that a political party whose very name pronounces its ambition to speak for and on behalf of all Maori should end up throwing its support behind the direct political descendants of the colonial authorities who enlisted the kupapa.
Will John Key erect a statue in your honour, Tariana Turia? He should, because you, and the once-proud party you are dragging behind you, have just voted to become his ‘‘Loyal Maoris’’.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Tariana, this column is not patronising you – it’s attacking you.
As a Pakeha, I am not constrained by traditional Maori decorum, nor am I silenced by a people’s shame.
The anger that is stirred in me by this latest political betrayal of your people is the same anger that rises every time I read about the way the Scottish lairds of the 19th century abandoned their people for English gold. Or, the way the South African chiefs abandoned their people in the 1970s and 80s for the Afrikaners’ krugerrands.
They, too, professed the purest – the most high-minded – motives for throwing in their lot with the men of power. They, too, were seeking a ‘‘voice in government’’ and equally determined to get the ‘‘best possible deal for their people’’ under the circumstances.
But the reality was always the same. They got the equivalent of the ministerial houses, and the people remained the playthings of their leaders’ new playmates.
And please, Tariana, don’t insult the intelligence of Maori and Pakeha by pretending there is anything even remotely democratic about your party’s decision.
We have seen your much vaunted ‘‘consultation hui’’ – or, perhaps I should say, we have seen as much of them as you have allowed us to see.
The news media has been prevented from recording the real debates, and so the people who must live with the consequences of your decisions have not been able to hear your justifications for making them.
And what happened to your party’s generous invitation to all those on the Maori roll to participate in these hui? At whose insistence was that rescinded, Tariana? John Key’s – or your own?
Did the prospect of those Maori who gave their electorate vote to the Maori Party and their party vote to Labour turning up in their tens of thousands to have their say frighten your new friends? Is that why participation was suddenly restricted to Maori Party members only?
If only 40 people could make it to the hui held in Pita Sharples’ South Auckland headquarters, I can imagine how risible the turnout was elsewhere. We saw the one-time radical, Hone Harawira, chatting away with about a dozen party faithful somewhere up north. I’m guessing that was about par for this farcical course.
I know whakapapa is everything to you Tariana, so I invite you to consider the whakapapa of Labour’s relationship with Maori.
I ask you to recall the alliance forged between the prophet Ratana and Michael Joseph Savage.
I ask you to recall who it was who gave Maori full citizenship – and equal access to the benefits of citizenship.
I ask you to recall who established the Waitangi Tribunal.
I ask you to recall who extended its remit back to 1840.
Your people move forward on the road they laid with Labour, Tariana, not with National.
And, you do not recite National’s whakapapa correctly. How do you dare cite te kohanga reo, one of the most outstanding and independent cultural initiatives of modern Maoridom, as a National Party achievement?
Your people will not easily forgive this turning away, Tariana. When unemployment and homelessness and poverty bite. When the prisons are full of your rangatahi. When National’s true whakapapa stands revealed.
They will curse your name.
I don’t normally quote in full, but how could I cut any of it out? It reminds me of when John Hart Minto lectured Nelson Mandela on not having done enough for blacks in South Africa as he didn’t overthrow capitalism.