Wellington, Jan 28 NZPA - Hone Harawira has been called to an urgent meeting of the Maori Party's disciplinary and disputes committee on Tuesday as it tries to end the strife over his criticism of its relationship with the Government.
His fellow MP Te Ururoa Flavell, who laid a formal complaint backed by co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia, has also been called to the meeting.
Committee chairman and party vice-president Te Orohi Paul announced the meeting today and said there would be another on February 9.
It would then make a recommendation to the national council, which would decide what to do about Mr Harawira.
If it decides to punish him its options range from censure to expulsion, decisions which would have a severe impact on the party's future and its chances in this year's election.
The party wanted yesterday's hui in Mr Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau electorate to resolve the complaint against him, but the way it was handled meant that didn't happen. Neither Mr Flavell nor party president Pem Bird were invited to attend and it turned into a support rally for Mr Harawira.
The national council then decided the complaint could not be resolved at a local level and referred it to the disciplinary and disputes committee.
The electorate committee which organised yesterday's hui added to the confusion today, by saying it had partly resolved the issue by dismissing the complaint and considered a meeting with Mr Harawira's critics would be "the second step".
Mr Flavell's complaint was over Mr Harawira's criticism in a newspaper article of the party's support for the Government and policies he said were anti-Maori.
Mr Bird told NZPA this morning the council had discussed the issue for hours last night before reaching its decision.
Te Tai Tokerau had been given several days to resolve the complaint at electorate level, and an extension, but after yesterday's events both the council and Mr Flavell felt resolution at that level was not possible, Mr Bird said.
"At the end of the day it's about fairness."
He said the disciplinary and disputes committee was a fair way to settle the issue and would be impartial.
It was not clear today who would be on the committee.
Mr Bird said five people would be chosen, but Mr Paul did not mention anyone other than himself when he issued a statement saying it would meet on Tuesday to hear Mr Harawira and Mr Flavell.
"This is an opportunity to actually focus on the substance of the complaint, and that hasn't been done," Mr Bird said.
Under the party's constitution, members are not allowed to bring the party or members "into public disrepute".
The constitution says members have to work to support the party and obey the constitution and the national council may decline or cancel any membership that it believes does not meet the criteria.
Emails between Mr Bird and Mr Harawira's electorate show increasingly tense exchanges, and in its written decision the party made it clear that it considered Mr Harawira's handling of the complaint and public comments could also be interpreted as bringing the party or its members into disrepute.
Mr Harawira did not return NZPA calls today, but this morning he told Radio New Zealand he thought the decision to refer him to the disciplinary body was hasty and his electorate had wanted a meeting with the national council.
"What we are talking about there, the national executive, is half a dozen people in a party of 25,000. Now I can absolutely guarantee ... that if there's 25,000 in the Maori Party, 24,500 of them are not expecting to see one of their MPs thrown out in election year," he said.
Mr Harawira said the National Government's interests were being served.
"I certainly think that the National Party's interests are better served by having their coalition partner docile, quiet and alongside them doing the sorts of things that National would like to see them do. Smiling with John Key and not making any ructions."
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