By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor
Scoop Exclusive: Intelligence sources have revealed the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) has launched a major covert operation investigating the Maori Party, co-leader Tariana Turia, its members, networks and associates.
Intelligence information came to light on Monday November 1st amidst speculation that political fallout from an inquiry into John Tamihere’s taxation affairs could have resulted in his resignation not only from Cabinet but also from Parliament. The later event would have forced a by-election in his Tamaki Makaurau seat.
The Maori Party’s networks are strong in Tamaki Makaurau and with its co-leader, high profile academic Dr Pita Sharples, set to campaign for the seat it was widely believed John Tamihere would likely lose should a by-election be held.
Next year’s General Election could potentially see the Maori Party hold balance over what party leads a coalition government. Recent poll trends suggest if Labour is to emerge from an election to lead for a third term it would need support from the Green Party and the Maori Party. The later has yet to express a preference between a Labour-led or National Party-led government.
This scenario has caused intelligence officials to consider what the potential consequences of a centrist Maori political force would have on the internal security of New Zealand.
Scoop understands three people in particular have been singled out for thorough investigation: Brian Dickson, Whititera Kaihau, and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia.
Whititera Kaihau is affiliated to Nga Te Ata and was involved with Waitangi Tribunal land claims in the 1990s in the Waikato zone.
Brian Dickson affiliates to Ngai Te Rangi and has had a long and involved history of championing Maori rights and land rights. Most recently he has been a significant mover at hui debating the Crown over the foreshore and seabed issue. Dickson’s position involving submissions on the bill has been to “maintain the full integrity of our customary rights” and in September 2003 accused the Crown of being “on the brink of another raupatu”.
On May 5 2004 Dickson as CEO of the Ngai Te Rangi Iwi criticised Labour MP Mita Ririnui’s public support for the Government’s proposed Bill. “This is a total betrayal of Tauranga Moana iwi,” Dickson said.
Dickson has also been involved with Bay Of Plenty based Maona AM radio.
Detailed files are also held on other likely Maori Party candidates.
The Maori Party’s Te Tai Tokerau electorate committee is expected to work through candidate selections on November 26-28.
A front runner tipped to run for Te Tai Tokerau is Hone Harawira who has been nominated by the Far North branch in Te Hiku. The Harawira family has long been controversial, first becoming a household name when Titewhai Harawira was imprisoned in the late 1980s for assaulting a patient in her care at Carrington's Maori mental health unit, the Whare Paia.
Scoop understands Tariana Turia was aware of suggestions her Party is under surveillance.
On Friday November 12, Turia’s office replied to Scoop questions: “Richard Woods (SIS director) has advised Tariana that there is no basis to the concern about SIS surveillance.”
A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister Helen Clark said: "Any rational reading of s 4AA of the NZ Security Intelligence Service Act would confirm how laughable this is."