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Maori Party Offers Support for Embattled Maori MPs

Maori Party Offers Support for Embattled Maori MPs in Labour Party Dr Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia, Co-leaders

Tuesday 11 April 2006

Amidst media speculation that the Labour Maori Caucus is worried over being seen as 'old hat'; and is developing strategies to "combat impressions of sluggishness", the Maori Party has admitted they have tried to offer support to their Maori colleagues in the Labour Party.

"Labour will always have a real problem convincing our people to support the brand 'Labour' rather than the brand 'Maori'" said Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party.

"Even in our latest round of consultations which commenced this last weekend, the people have told us that as far as they are concerned there is very little difference between either the Labour or National brand" said Mrs Turia, speaking in-between hui at Otaihape and Waiouru in the central North Island.

"Tangata whenua want an independent Maori voice in Parliament, and we are doing our utmost, as the Maori Party, to fulfill that goal" said Mrs Turia.

According to media sources, senior Labour Party members have admitted that there is growing concern at their "Maori MPs failure to communicate with the Maori electorate" and there had been criticism of Labour Maori MPs "slow response to Maori issues". [refer The Herald, 'Labour Seeks Tactics to beat Maori Party'].

"In the hui I attended over the weekend at Ruatoria and Gisborne, I was reminded of the importance tangata whenua place in an independent Maori political voice" said Dr Sharples. "Unfortunately for the Labour Maori caucus - the perception will always be that their ability to participate will always be subservient to the Labour message".

"We will never resile from supporting Maori in just causes" said Dr Sharples.

"That is why we have attempted to support the Labour MPs over the last few months, as they have tried to work through the problems within their caucus. A classic recent example was when Hon Dover Samuels and Mahara Okeroa were sidelined, and their Ministerially delegated responsibilities overlooked, by calling on Rick Barker to oversee their portfolio areas" [at the time of Chris Carter's absence overseas].

"It has been disappointing that in their response to our support, Labour has chosen to dismiss us as the 'new kids on the block', implying that to support the beleagued Maori MPs is naïve" said Dr Sharples. "As our young people would say, 'whatever'!"

"We believe that manaakitanga cuts through party political boundaries. If a colleague is having difficulties, it shouldn't be the party political colours they wear that determine your behaviour towards them".

Our over-riding concern should surely be - what we can all do to ensure that we can defend Maori rights, and advance Maori interests, for the benefit of the nation. Ultimately, that's what we have come to Parliament to do, to work for our people" stated Dr Sharples.

ENDS

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