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Truth and Reconciliation: Moving Forward as Nation

General Debate; Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader, Maori Party

Wednesday 2 August 2006

Truth and Reconciliation: Moving Forward as a Nation

Tena koe Mr Speaker

The establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, was one of the turning points in the history of the world. A turning point, which sought to move a nation forward from the atrocities of the past, to achieve a future, based in healing and reconciliation.

At the forefront of that time, was Arch-bishop Desmond Tutu, a tireless anti-apartheid activist, and 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. He spoke out in a way which I believe speaks to our nation at this time. He said:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality”.

Mr Speaker, removing the Treaty from Legislation; deleting the Treaty from Education; is an injustice which must not go unchallenged.

For the truth and reconciliation that our nation must confront, is sourced in our history, our future based in our past and given authority in our present. It is a history which must not be erased or deleted or removed from the school books of our new curriculum; from the statute books of this fine House, and from public record.

A history which derives from the relationship given life in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Our history is a shared history. A history of pakeha, of tangata whenua, of nationship which has been given its authority from the binding document of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Last night I read an email from Maanu Paul, Chairperson of the New Zealand Maori Council, which I want to share with the House. He said:

“We need to tell our history. It is a history of passion, commitment, endeavour, sacrifice, and bravery….That is we have a sense of history founded in our island hopping journey across Te Moana Nui A Kiwa (the Pacific), adapting and adopting our architecture, horticulture, language, art, craft, waiata, paki waitara, pepeha and our matauranga (knowledge).

This makes us want to fight for our rights - our tikanga - our taonga and more importantly for the gains that our forefathers fought for”.

The mokopuna of Maanu and Gwenda Paul, will also, however, benefit from the rich history of whakapapa that comes from the situation of inter-marriage.

A marriage of a Maori man to a Pakeha woman, the consequence of which demonstrates their unique histories and their shared histories. In the relationship of these two individuals - their children and their grandchildren - we can make sense of the place of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in their past, their present and their future.

Our history forward lies in our shared humanity. To reconcile the past with our movement onwards, we need to be in a position in which we can speak our truths, share our stories, walk our talk.

The principles of the Treaty in legislation enable us to apply the Treaty to present-day circumstances and issues.

Recognising the significance of the Treaty in our curriculum, provides our upcoming leaders with an understanding on how both parties can act reasonably, honourably and in good faith.

Last night I listened alertly to the Member for Hamilton West talk with excitement about ‘National Identity’ - defining it as being about the defence force, the Territorials, and belatedly, a bit of arts and culture.

Once again, omission by design, the silencing and rewriting of our cultural identity, by the glaring failure to refer to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Mr Speaker, if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

The Maori Party challenges all Members of this House, to remove the blinkers of injustice, to speak up about a history denied, a history deprived.


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