Self determination is not apartheid
David Williams: Self-determination is not apartheid
Thursday November 01, 2007
When Tamati Kruger of Tuhoe speaks in measured tones of the importance of the Tuhoe nation as his primary allegiance, rather than that of a New Zealander, it seems many people cannot understand the message.
Worse than that, rather than try to understand what mana motuhake or rangatiratanga might actually mean for Tuhoe, critics set up fanciful straw man arguments to dismiss heartfelt pleas for Maori control over Maori resources.
Winston Peters of New Zealand First equates Tuhoe nation with the state-enforced dominance of the majority by a racial minority in South Africa. He overlooks the fact that separate nations do operate within numerous other modern democratic nations.
The Nunanvet and Nishgaa nations in Canada are two of many examples I am aware of for indigenous or First Nations exercising self-determination and autonomy through their own representative institutions in the United States and Canada.
The Sami nation in Norway have their own parliament. Even in Britain the Scottish Parliament legislates for separate rights and separate privileges for Scotland, and of course Scottish law is quite different from English common law.
It is plain nonsense to seize only on the discredited system of apartheid to peremptorily dismiss calls for Maori tribal self-determination in Aotearoa New Zealand. Why can we not see what we might learn from successful examples of indigenous peoples asserting their own autonomy in ways that include the diversity of others living in the same country?
Then an Auckland barrister, David Garrett, goes off into fanciful nonsense about the need for Tuhoe to build an international airport if there is to be secession. Has he read any of the history of Tuhoe? Does he know anything of the autonomous community of Maungapohatu led by the prophet Te Rua Kenana in the early years of the last century?
What they wanted was to be left alone to live their own lives on their own land, but would the Government allow that?
No, a police invasion under the pretext of enforcing racially discriminatory licensing laws saw the pillage of an autonomous community. If Mr Peters and Mr Garrett are so appalled by racial discrimination, what steps have they taken to ensure the Government apologises to the descendants of Te Rua Kenana for the police shooting of his son, his own imprisonment and the destruction of his vibrant modern community on the pretext of enforcing licensing laws of the time that treated Maori and Europeans so differently?
It is not as though Maori calls for autonomy are so new that we are not yet able to comprehend the possibility of positive rather than negative reactions to such calls.
King Movement and Ratana Church petitions to the Sovereign and many volumes of discourse on the meaning of te Tiriti o Waitangi ought to have prepared us for dialogue on the issues raised by Mr Kruger.
In 1996 the Waitangi Tribunal wrote in its Taranaki Report: The international term of aboriginal autonomy ... describes the right of indigenes to constitutional status as first peoples, and their rights to manage their own policy, resources and affairs, within minimum parameters necessary for the operation of the state.
Equivalent Maori words are tino rangatiratanga, as used in the Treaty, and mana motuhake, as used since the 1860s.
Must it always be that Maori leaders write petitions, lodge claims with the Waitangi Tribunal and make pleas for the rest of us to listen, only to be rebuffed by angry knee-jerk reactions and fanciful arguments?
Surely political debate in this country needs to include reasoned discussions of what are the minimum parameters necessary for the operation of the state while embracing the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination.
* Dr David Williams is a professor of law at the University of Auckland.