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Govt Refusal to Hold Hui on Marae Angers Veterans

Government’s Continued Refusal to Hold Hui on Marae a “slap in the face for Maori Viet Nam war veterans”.

Tariana Turia and Te Ururoa Flavell; Maori Party

Friday 3 February 2006

The Maori Party has been approached by Viet Nam veterans throughout the country who are outraged by an indication that the Joint Working Group on the Concerns of Viet Nam Veterans has refused to meet on the marae.

“Just this week I received a letter from Clarence Pita Ormsby, JP, on behalf of Mäori and Pakeha Viet Nam veterans currently residing in Sydney, who called the Working Group’s decision to boycott the Ngati Kahu marae in Tauranga, “a cultural insult, disrespectful and a slap in the face for Maori Viet Nam war veterans” stated Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki.

“This decision makes for depressing reading as we approach the annual day of reckoning to assess how far we have come in honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi” stated Mr Flavell. “How hard is it to hold a meeting on a marae - to respect the wishes of tangata whenua - to honour their request?”

Member of Parliament for Te Tai Hauauru, Tariana Turia, is also aware of the huge disappointment that Group Whanganui have expressed in light of their request to present oral submissions at Putiki marae being rejected.

Group Whanganui includes Viet Nam veterans and their whanau residing in Whanganui and other regions of New Zealand. Supporters of Group Whanganui include members of the 28th Maori Battalion, Whanganui branch. A series of hui held between September and November 2005 in both Taranaki and Whanganui preceded the formal request in December 2005 to hold the consultation meeting in Whanganui at Putiki marae.

This week, Group Whanganui advised Mrs Turia that the working group Chair, Michael Wingtringham, had responded to the continued requests from Group Whanganui with a three-sentence email which stated “there is no compelling reason to depart from the current programme”.

“This is a devastating outcome for our Viet Nam veterans, approximately 60% of whom are Maori” stated Mrs Turia. “Surely a ‘compelling reason’ for Mr Wintringham would be to recognise that the trauma that veterans experienced at Viet Nam needs to be responded to in a way which demonstrates the Government is prepared to honour their responsibility to our veterans and their whanau”.

“One would have thought the working group would be falling over backwards to ensure that the consultation process does not in itself, create further hurt and resentment amongst Viet Nam veterans”.

“It makes one wonder why the Government is so scared to go to marae” stated Mrs Turia. “The marae is a perfectly appropriate location in which to raise contentious issues, to enable debate, and to ensure there are appropriate processes with which to honour the significance of the kaupapa”.

“This latest response from the former State Services Commissioner [Michael Wintringham] leads me to ask why Maori progress has been stifled for so long in the public sector -we all know it takes leadership” stated Mrs Turia.

“One of our local media (the Daily Post ) reported that the working group had advised Rotorua veterans that they refused to meet on the marae because it has a ‘tight timeline’” added Mr Flavell, MP for Waiariki.

“I consider this to be highly offensive -marae can provide the context for discussion within specified timeframes as easily as any other venue, and it is clearly insulting to tangata whenua to suggest otherwise”.


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