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Prime Minister told ‘this is D Day’

Prime Minister told ‘this is D Day’ by Maori Party Co-leaders

Statement by Dr Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia

Tuesday 28 November 2006

The Maori Party today called on Helen Clark to exercise her leadership as Prime Minister and put an end to the Government's hostile position being advocated internationally, in their opposition to the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

“Today is D Day for Labour” said Mrs Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party.

“D for Declaration - a declaration which has been twenty years in the making, a declaration which gives specific recognition to the human rights of indigenous peoples”.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is scheduled to be considered by the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee on Tuesday 28 November from 10am-1pm EST (New York Time).

“Over the past year, we have exerted considerable pressure on the Government through oral and written questions, letters, debates in the House and other approaches, for two key reasons: to ask that they consult with whanau, hapu and iwi on this matter of direct concern to us; and to ask that they vote in support of the draft Declaration at the United Nations” said Mrs Turia.

“In October, we wrote directly to the Prime Minister asking her to attend hui with tangata whenua, in order to hear the views directly from the people themselves. She declined the offer”.

“On the 9th November, the Mataatua Assembly of Tribes called on the Government to ‘do the right thing for Maori and for the integrity of the Treaty of Waitangi and New Zealand’ by voting for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It appears that yet again, tangata whenua are being snubbed by this Government” said Mrs Turia.

“The responses received from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, advised us that although the Government has facilitated six meetings with interested academics, individuals and NGOs over the last twenty years, they have never specifically met with tangata whenua on this issue of such significance to indigenous peoples around the globe” stated Dr Sharples.

"The responses make it clear that the Government has never met with iwi or hapu, or their mandated representatives - despite repeated calls to do so” added Dr Sharples. “It would seem they have never had any intention to consult as there has never been any funding allocated to do so".

“It is appalling that a decision of such relevance to tangata whenua is being made in isolation from the very people this Declaration is supposed to recognise” said Dr Sharples.

“We have been told that the Native American organisation,American Indian Law Alliance has described New Zealand’s position and approach in negotiations as “an assault on the human rights of all indigenous peoples” and “discriminatory, colonial and racist” said Dr Sharples.

“We know also that leading human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, have criticised the actions New Zealand has taken, in working to whittle away the rights in the Declaration; eroding human rights for all indigenous peoples by the antagonistic stand they have taken” stated Dr Sharples.

“The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a vital opportunity for New Zealand to show leadership on our commitment to such universal principles as justice, democracy, respect for human rights and equality” said Mrs Turia.

“All I can say to Helen (Clark) is to dig deep in her soul, and reconsider her actions. To oppose the Declaration is to dismiss and deny the human rights of indigenous peoples around the globe. This is most definitely not a message we want the New Zealand Government to be making on our behalf".

“We also need to remember, that according to the United Nations, there are more than 370 million indigenous peoples in the world. Why should New Zealand stand in their way?” concluded Mrs Turia.

Ends


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