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A World of Peace: Peace in Politics - Turia Speech

Hon. Tariana Turia - Co-Leader Maori Party

Keynote Address to National Conference of the New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women

22 April 2005; Taipa Bay Resort Hotel

‘A World of Peace: Peace in Politics’

Na muri kia ea mai a mua, a, ka ora ai tatou

Those who lead, give sight to those who follow

Those who follow, give life to those who lead

It is a privilege to be here in Tai Tokerau, so close to Te Rerenga Wairua, one of the most sacred places for tangata whenua in this land.

Our traditions tell us that it is here that the spirits of our tupuna will depart to travel their spiritual pathway. The tribes of Muriwhenua are the guardians of this pathway, where all departed souls must travel to reach their spiritual homeland.

It was because of the significance of this site, that exactly a year ago today, it was here that the hikoi to Parliament began its journey. A hikoi for justice, a hikoi of peaceful protest, a hikoi for political autonomy.

That journey was provoked by the action of the Government in taking away our access to justice, removing the last bit of customary land we owned by default. Our sense of peace, of justice, of well-being; was shattered.

For many tangata whenua it was the first time in our living history that we had experienced land confiscation. Although the legacy of our ancestors’ experiences had been passed down to us, we never thought it would actually happen to us in 2004. To see it happen in our lifetime has seen a profound awakening of our spirit. And so, situated in this sacred space, conscious of the significance too of this day, it is a very apt place to address the topic of peace in politics.

I acknowledge the Federation of Business and Professional Women; and the international guests who have honoured this conference with your presence, including the Business and Professional Women’s International President from Switzerland, and the first Vice President from Thailand.

In thinking about this idea of a World of Peace, I thought about someone who has always motivated me in applying our kaupapa, our values, to achieve peace across the international stage.

I’m thinking of Pauline Tangiora, Rongomaiwahine, Patron of the Peace Foundation, former President of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, an Earth Charter Commissioner, committee member of an Indigenous Initiative for Peace; women’s representative to the World Council for Indigenous Peoples.

Now all those qualifications are pretty impressive. Yet over fifty years ago, when Pauline was a young mum, such indicators of status couldn’t have been further from her mind. Her focus then was absorbed with her whanau – eight children living, six step-children, and many many mokopuna, great mokopuna and whangai (children she has raised).

Feeding the mouths and spirits of her babies provided her with a clear vision for her future, and the future of those who would follow after her. Those who follow give life to those who lead.

Therefore, while bombs were being tested in the Pacific, the thought of the possible damage to her ancestral lands and the rest of the Pacific made her determined to take action. What sort of a world would nuclear testing leave to those who followed on?

From such humble beginnings, she started to think. And from that thinking came a call to action.

Pauline had the belief that nothing is impossible – a belief in herself and what she could achieve. She is an ordinary person who has achieved extra-ordinary things.

In my eyes, Pauline is one of our most accomplished politicians, a staunch advocate of self-determination, an activist to achieve rangatiratanga, yet always conducting herself with dignity and respect. Her example motivates me; her life represents peace in politics.

I’ll let you in on a secret. When I was given this topic, ‘Peace in Politics’ I have to admit I was stumped. Brain-numb. I thought maybe I was tired, try again another day. But still the inspiration wouldn’t come. And so that’s when I started to think outside the House of Parliament…outside the Westminster system…outside the models of conflict, of personal attacks, of divisive behaviour.

One of the sad realities of our current parliamentary system is the acceptance of an adversarial environment. Very few people who enter the game of national politics leave unscathed.

If you are in Government the Opposition become adept at pouncing on the weaker Ministers. If you are in Opposition, you get used to the Government responding to questions by turning the focus instead on the inadequacies of the questioner.

Parliament is a place where politicians are bruised, frailties exposed, vulnerabilities exploited. It is a very hard place at times, a place where family members are seldom protected from the media spotlight, where mis-interpretations of your view become the six o’clock news.

And the public watching on accept this as the norm, ‘that’s politics’.

In many ways, parallels can be drawn with the competitive market place, the so-called ‘cut-throat’, ‘dog-eat-dog’ world “that’s business”. Interesting how violent these descriptors are.

I know that in an auspicious organisation like your own, the Federation of Business and Professional Women, members are working every day to put the heart back into business.

You have shown that the business world can also be a world where mutual respect and co-operation can be upheld, alongside profits and accountability.

Manutuke business woman, Tracey Tangihaere, explained this as balancing essential values in synergy with good business practice:

“Maori business leaders have a great opportunity to re-define sustainability and business ethics and reapply these principles to new business opportunities that emerge from our unique culture and breath-taking landscapes.

Making profits is great, but it should not be at the expense of Papatuanuku (Earth Mother), Tangaroa (the sea) or our people” .

Last month at the Hui Taumata, our leading economists were saying much the same thing – that to be an excellent Maori business person it was the strength and conviction of your tikanga (your practices) and kaupapa (values) that made the difference.

And that is where the Maori Party holds our hope for creating a new world of politics where peace and harmony are valued, relationships held in high regard.

We believe that peace is more than the absence of conflict, and peace-making is more than merely resolving disputes.

Having said that, we must all have the courage to face mistakes, to acknowledge when our actions may have impacted on our own well-being, or the well-being of others. Just as in a healthy family, if we do not pay attention to healing and restoration, we may ignore valuable opportunities for all parties to contribute; and balance and harmony to be restored.

Peace is also about opening up possibilities, challenging ourselves to consider alternatives, celebrating diversity rather than fearing it or perceiving it as a threat.

In a debating chamber segregated into ‘ayes’ and ‘nos’ often the diverse perspectives offered by members are collapsed into bland homogeneity. Take for example the ‘No’ that various parties gave to the recent Foreshore and Seabed Act.

National’s NO vote was based on their desire to ‘reclaim the beaches’ and attack the grievance industry.

Act’s NO vote was based on their concern that private property rights were being trampled on.

And our vote against the Bill accepted that there should be shared access to the foreshore, noting that such an approach is compatible with customary ownership governed by tikanga Maori.

Yet although at opposite ends of the spectrum, our diverse and unique explanations for NO, become merged together and our political distinctiveness hidden.

The interests of justice, of equity, of advocacy must not be compromised at the expense of our distinctive differences. We must all be able to retain the essence of who we are.

The calling for peace in politics is also about understanding and building of relationships.

We must all be able to retain the essence of who we are. The importance of relationships, of connections, is a key success factor for the politics of everyday life.

At the very core of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a desire for a relationship between tangata whenua and all those who came to this land to call it home.

The Maori Party is committed to the promise laid down in Te Tiriti, for our peoples to be able to live together in Aotearoa. We support a move to involve all peoples in the process of rebuilding our nation based on mutual respect and harmonious relationships.

We have become so insular, so inward looking, that we have forgotten how to care for each other. We need to do this right from the very source of our society, our families, and our whanau.

One of the greatest crimes of the political bureaucracy is the way in which we move children from the very essence of who they are. It disturbs me greatly that 73% of Pakeha children currently in state care, are relocated to the homes of strangers. The figures are also unacceptably high for tangata whenua with 52% placed in the homes of people outside of their whanau.

How can we restore peace and justice to the lives of these children and their family members if we remove them from the basis of who they are?

Retrieving peace in the political turmoil for our families is through renewing the sense of responsibility and obligation we must take for each other.

Peace must be seen as an every day thing. We need to restore balance and harmony to all who have been affected by the issues and crimes of life. We need to see that those who have done wrong are made to account in a tangible way, in order to restore balance to all.

Instead of destroying lives with our hard-hitting responses, we need to look at the situations that created the dysfunction and act in ways to address the pain. If we fail to restore balance and harmony at the time of crisis people will not recover.

The personal is political – and if we are to achieve peace in our communities we must wrap some loving arms and some loving thinking around each other.

We need to be able to care for ourselves, to care for each other, to care for our world. And our energy should be taken up in creating solutions.

I want to refer to a particular crisis of national significance – that is of family violence. A couple of years ago, as Associate Minister of Maori Affairs, we realised that strategy after strategy, pilot schemes, domestic violence programmes, a whole host of initiatives were being introduced but didn’t seem to be making much difference.

So we pulled together a team of expert practitioners – those doing the work with families in their communities. Out of that work evolved Project Mauriora: a tikanga based approach to restoring responsibilities and obligations amongst communities to address unacceptable behaviour such as violence towards each other.

It was not dissimilar to the way our people reacted in the past. The stories my aunties shared with me were about how offenders had to account to all their relatives for crimes that had been committed. Sure, there were various retributions given out – such as the loss of land. But the individuals also paid dearly in having to be accountable to their whanaunga – to face their wrath and move on.

We have got into a frame of thinking which is “out of sight, out of mind”. This does not address the issues for the perpetrator – or the collective responsibility of the family around.

“If my brother errs, so too, do I”.

If families see profound grief in one of their members, they must have faith in themselves to address the issues and restore peace.

I think the greatest challenge in front of us is bringing back the ‘common unity’ in community. If we are committed to creating peace in local and central politics, the politics of the community must reflect that.

We have become a ‘mind your own business’ community, where privacy and confidentiality clauses take precedence over compassion and caring.

If I think of where I live in Wellington - I have never met any of the people who live behind the high walled fences between our property and theirs.

Just recently we have a niece seriously ill in hospital. The family started to gather as we turned to each other in our time of crisis. During this time, one of our neighbours rang the Council to complain about the number of cars outside our house.

It startled me to think how far we have come from my childhood. In those times, if we saw a whole lot of cars outside anyone’s house, particularly in our street, we knew it meant two things – a celebration or a sadness. And it was our duty and respect that would mean we would pay a visit on the family to offer support.

We need to revive the sense of community in which we give heart to the connections between us, rather than focus on the artificial boundaries that divide us.

Peace in politics – whether in the home, the House of Parliament, or the community, is about looking after each other, to restore a sense of harmony and common unity.

We need to reinvest in ourselves, to create a better tomorrow. It is about reclaiming and restoring faith in our ability to find our own solutions. Just as Pauline moved to lobby against bombing in the Pacific, we can all take action to prove the ‘nothing is impossible spirit’ is burning strong in all our hearts. That we can sing ‘we’re simply the best’ with all our gusto, and know that it is true.

We can be the ordinary that achieve the extraordinary, to give sight to those who follow.


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