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National Debate on the Treaty Welcomed

National Debate on the Treaty Welcomed

Dr Pita Sharples and Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leaders of the Maori Party

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Maori Party co-leaders, Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, have praised the role of the media in helping to frame an important national debate around Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“We have been thrilled to see the Maori electoral seats reported in terms which link the seats as the clearest expression of the constitutional responsibilities of Parliament to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi” said Dr Sharples.

“We were concerned that some lone voices were portraying this as a race issue, and so it has been very positive to see the debate move up a notch, to place the seats within the context of the Treaty” said Dr Sharples.

“What was fascinating in the Minor Parties Leaders Debate, was to see that from both the left (Greens) and the right (ACT), there was support for the Maori seats as a symbolic recognition of the Treaty” Dr Sharples noted, “and we recognise the significant movement that has also been shown by both the major parties on this issue”.

“The media are now debating between themselves whether we mean ‘partnership’ or ‘relationship’ when we describe the Maori Party’s role in acting as the instrument for the aspirations of our constituency” said Dr Sharples.

“This has not been an aspect of the debate that Maori have been particularly worried about – other than those approached by the media” said Mrs Turia. “But, like us, they are pleased to see any debate happening around the Treaty as the very foundation of our nationhood”.

“There are so many aspects to this debate – do you mean Treaty or Tiriti; do you mean articles or principles; where does the Declaration of Independence fit, and most important of all – how do you honour the Treaty?”

“The significant thing for us, is that we are all open to the debate” said Mrs Turia. "We are not a party that issues set scripts, or tells people how to think, how many children to have, what is the one 'right' view".

"If you want to see how 'one size fits all' works in practice, try telling Whanganui iwi that they must pronounce the 'h' in Whanganui!" said Mrs Turia.

"We must be brave enough to hear all sides of the debate, to celebrate tribal diversity, to welcome different opinions, and to actively stimulate the conversation - such wide ranging debate is the mark of a maturing nation" stated Mrs Turia.

“For many Maori, the absence of political discussion about Te Tiriti o Waitangi has been greatly lamented, and so they have welcomed the renewed interest that the Maori Party’s actions have generated in such an important national debate” continued Dr Sharples.

“New Zealanders have watched the Treaty be taken out of the school curriculum; the SSC’s Treaty Unit disbanded; the Treaty2u bus run out of gas. And they have seen the Maori Party come back with proposals to include Treaty clauses in the Emissions Trading Bill; the Immigration legislation; the Policing Bill – proposals which Labour promptly rejected”.

“They remember, too, that the Maori Party members of Parliament sought to swear allegiance to Te Tiriti o Waitangi when they were first sworn in”.

“The Maori Party will never say never, in terms of this vital constitutional debate around Te Tiriti o Waitangi” said Mrs Turia.

“That is why we must have the mandate of the seven Maori electorate seats – to ensure a strong and independent voice, dedicated to upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi, to help continue a vitally important national dialogue”.


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