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Community 'under siege' says Waiariki MP

Te Ururoa Flavell,
Member of Parliament for Waiariki

Monday 15 October 2007

Community 'under siege' says Waiariki MP

The unprecedented police activity across the small rural Maori communities throughout the Urewera Valley has been described by Waiariki MP as placing a community in his electorate "under siege".

"Operation 'O-desk', as it unfolded this morning, has left school-children and families fearful" said Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki. "As reports came in to my electorate office, it became clear that some serious allegations are at the forefront of the events of today" said Flavell.

"It is not my place to comment on matters before the Court, but as Electorate MP for this region, I was alarmed to hear that children on the way to school had been upset by the police armed roadblock in Ruatoki" said Flavell.

"One of the suspects was greatly distressed to have been arrested in front of his mokopuna" said Flavell. "How do whanau taking their children to kura or kohanga reo, explain to them the presence of the armed defenders squad?"

"The Maori families living in my electorate feel unduly harassed by the number of search warrants imposed, the charges laid, and the intimidation they believe they have experienced this morning" said Te Ururoa Flavell.

"It was soul-destroying to hear one koroua describe his first thoughts were that it reminded him of the context of raupatu" said Te Ururoa Flavell. "This is not surprising, given it appears the road block was at the site of the confiscation line - which marks the point up to which land was taken from Tuhoe in the 1860s".

"The whole context around the Terrorism Suppression Act is highly charged for Maori" said Flavell. "When the Act came in to law in 2002, Maori predicted it was only a matter of time before it was used against them and so it is inevitable that these concerns have arisen this morning given that this is the first time that the Terrorism Suppression Act has been applied".

"The timing is of great interest in that the select committee reporting on the new Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill has just issued its report (27 September. People have been asking is this an opportunity to test the Act? It certainly doesn't surprise our community that it happens close to home" said Mr Flavell.

"We are yet to receive a full briefing as to the events as they have transpired, but as we understand it, people of mixed ethnicity are involved in this operation across the country" said Flavell.

"The safety and wellbeing of the public is of course uppermost in our minds. We will be keeping a very close eye on this situation. The key issue for all the families I represent, is how reliable is the evidence?"

ENDS

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