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Newswire: Laws - meds jibe on council letterhead

Newswire: Laws does it again – meds jibe on council letterhead

serves up more offence
THE REPLY: Laws serves up more offence.

Laws does it again – meds jibe on council letterhead

Sep 23rd, 2009 | By Kimberley Crayton-Brown

A MONTH after his controversial letter replying to Otaki school pupils, Michael Laws has fired off more insulting correspondence to a young person challenging his views.

Stephanie Lewis, born and bred in Wanganui, wrote to the town’s mayor, appalled at his reply to the Year 7 and 8 students’ letters protesting his stand on the spelling of Wanganui.

Lewis was part of a group who set up the template for the Wanganui Youth Council in 2005, and during that time frequently reported back to council meetings attended by Laws.

In the letter, Lewis, a fourth-year law and political science student at Victoria University, said Laws’ denigrating the students’ views was a “gross abuse of democratic power”.

Lewis wrote, “I do not think that bullying young school children is in the best interests of Wanganui”, and asked him to start thinking about the best interests of the town over his personal opinions.

Laws’ two-line response on official stationery read: “Your letter suggests that your medication has worn off – as has your logic. I also note most of New Zealand disagrees with you.”

Lewis says she doesn’t know what “most of New Zealand” disagrees with. Her only challenge to Laws was on the way he treated the school children and his position as a role model.

Not once did Lewis mention the Wanganui/Whanganui debate in her letter. She says such a sensitive issue should be dealt with in a way that does not increase divisions in the community.

After attending Barack Obama’s inauguration in January and witnessing the passion and involvement in politics by people of all ages, Lewis is even more determined and inspired to bring some of that passion to New Zealand politics.

Speaking to groups who sponsored her trip, she encourages them to get involved in politics “as it is the people who ultimately hold the politicians accountable”. Lewis tells them: “If we are not happy with what they are doing, then we need to say so.”

Lewis says because she encourages others to voice their opinions or disagreements with politicians, it would be hypocritical if she sat back and did not lead by example. She was shocked by Laws’ brief and dismissive reply to her letter.

She says the mayor’s letter to the Otaki school children was essentially discouraging freedom of speech, and saying that 11 and 12-year-olds are incapable of formulating and expressing their own opinions.

“At that age I was capable of doing just that,” she says.


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