INDEPENDENT NEWS

Entrenchment of Maori seats is good for democracy

Published: Fri 30 May 2008 09:29 AM
Entrenchment of Maori seats is good for democracy - Maori Party
Te Ururoa Flavell, Treaty spokesperson
                        30 May 2008
EMBARGOED to 1.00am Friday 30 May 2008
Maori seats will remain until Maori want them abolished, and that is the aim of the Maori Party’s Private Members’ Bill to entrench the Maori seats, says Maori Party Treaty spokesperson Te Ururoa Flavell.
“The Maori seats are a legacy of the Treaty relationship in our constitution, guaranteeing Maori an independent voice in Parliament,” he said.
"Maori seats should be entrenched in the same way that general seats are, until our constitution is restructured on the basis of the Treaty. At that point, our people might have another look at the need for separate seats.
“A recent Business Round Table report tries to rein in the resurgent political power of tangata whenua. It recommends abolishing the Maori seats out of pure self-interest, and definitely not for the good of Maori,” said Mr Flavell.
“This report regurgitates the same old legalistic and ethno-centric arguments that have been used to deny Maori representation since 1840.
“It quotes the Royal Commission into the Electoral System of 20 years ago, which thought putting Maori individuals high on party lists would make separate Maori seats unnecessary.
“But tangata whenua opposed that, because the ‘Maori representatives’ would be selected by the parties, and disciplined to represent the party, not the iwi,” said Mr Flavell. “The Parliament agreed with the Waitangi Tribunal that Maori seats are a constitutional issue not a ‘race-based special privilege’, so the seats remain today.
“The Round Table says the Maori seats are outdated, and Maori have achieved proportional representation without the need for Maori seats. Utter rubbish! Without the seven Maori electorate MPs, Parliament would not be proportional.
“Then they say Labour’s domination of the Maori seats leaves other parties with little incentive to appeal to Maori voters. Where have they been the last five years? It’s the Maori Party that’s heading for a clean sweep of the Maori seats.
“The arrival of the Maori Party has really rejuvenated Maori interest in politics,” said Mr Flavell. “A strong and independent Maori voice in the Parliament guarantees Maori views are heard, if not heeded, on all issues. That’s good for our people, it’s good for democracy – and it’s the last thing the Business Round Table wants,” he said.
“Luckily we don’t have to worry about this report, because we are getting busy gearing up to win the seven Maori seats in October,” he said.
ends

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