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Hone Harawira lashes out at Maori Party

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Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith
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Suspended Maori Party MP Hone Harawira has lashed out at his suspension from the Maori Party caucus calling it a “a public relations disaster” for the party.

Harawira held a press conference at Parliament today where he pledged to stand again for his Tai Tokerau electorate in the next election. He was getting his say in before a Maori Party disciplinary meeting tomorrow. Harawira was supported at the press conference by former MP John Tamihere and broadcaster Willie Jackson. Both these men along with Hone are prominent members of the NZ branch of the Say First Think Later Society.

After extensive disruptions at Waitangi Day celebrations at Waitangi last Sunday and public comments made by Harawira against his party in the media, Harawira was suspended from the Maori Party pending a disciplinary hearing. Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said they could no longer trust Harawira.

Exactly what they could not trust him with is not clear. We assume they could not trust him to keep his mouth shut and tow the party line in harmony with the governing National Party.

Harawira says that his party has “been swallowed up by the National juggernaut. We are seen as merely the Maori face of a Government that is hurting Maori people.”

Harawira admitted he had made mistakes, struggled with authority and could have handled his relationships with colleagues better. This is something of an understatement. Hone has always said what he thinks regardless of the consequences. He would certainly liven up the dour diplomatic scene if he was made the New Zealand ambassador to somewhere important.

The relationship between the Maori Party and National in the coalition government has always been a curious one. Two old adversaries thrown together by circumstances. The Maori Party on the rebound after breaking away from Labour, and the National party desperate to ensure the keys to power belonged to them.

For all the bad press that Hone gets, he is making valid points on behalf of his electorate. GST rises, unemployment and public asset sales are key concerns for those he represents. As Hone put it “Our people are getting hammered every step of the way. Not because I say so, but because every single economic commentator is saying so.”

One final point I would like to make on the current installment of the Hone Harawira v Maori Party leadership saga, is that it is the Maori way to have open and vigorous debate on issues. Hone has not helped himself with some of his more extreme quotes, but it shows how National-fied the Maori Party has become when they want their public face to be orderly and in control while all the dirty linen is aired in private. The Maori Party certainly seems to be embracing pakeha protocols at the expense of their own.

The general election in November will be rather intriguing.

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