Parihaka on the verdict for the Urewera Four
Press Statement by Parihaka on the verdict for the Urewera Four
The people of the historic settlement of Parihaka in Taranaki have condemned the Crown's use of the anti-terrorism act to charge the Urewera Four, including loved members of the Parihaka community - Emily Bailey and Urs Signer. Parihaka kaumatua, at this month’s gatherings of commemoration for Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, were scathing of the police charges and pledged their absolute support for Bailey and Signer. They saw striking similarities with the repression of Parihaka by constabulary and soldiers as they protested the unjust confiscation of their lands, an act judged illegal by the 1928 Sims Commission and in recent Waitangi Tribunal reports.
Prominent Parihaka kaumatua, Rangikotuku Rukuwai, said the Government had used flawed legislation against the pair, just as they had imprisoned Tohu and Te Whiti with repressive laws to stop their passive resistance in the mid-1800s. Mr Rukuwai said that in the future people would look on these Government actions with disgust. “If they are found guilty under this anti-terrorism act, then the Government will be found to be justified in spying on us with secret cameras and arresting us because we protest actions of the Crown like our tupuna did before us.
Maata Wharehoka, kaitiaki (guardian) of Te Niho house at Parihaka, was equally scathing. “These allegations by the Crown that Emily and Urs were preparing to commit acts of great violence are absurd and an indictment on all New Zealanders who feel very deeply about justice and forging an enduring peace. These are two amazing examples of peaceful and talented youth. They are filled with passion and enthusiasm and are well-loved and respected members in our community at Parihaka. They will be leaders of our people in the future, in fact they are already.”
Another widely-respected Taranaki Kaumatua, Te Huirangi Waikerepuru, said the Crown allegations that an ‘organised’ crime had taken place, were preposterous. “The protection of the Maori language and tikanga (traditions) and the seeking of the rightful return of so much that was illegally stolen from us by the Crown, is that a crime? If that is the case then I would take pride in being pronounced guilty as well. I had better hand myself in right now!” Te Waikerepuru said there was widespread support among all iwi of Taranaki for the Urewera four.
Speaker of Te Paepae house at Parihaka, Ruakere Hond, who was also a defence witness at the trial, said the police action had caused divisiveness for Maori and Pakeha and the Crown had now found itself in a dilemma. “When these terrorism laws were being debated and when a police anti-terrorism unit with increased powers was being mooted there were assurances that they were to stop acts such as 9/11 or the Bali bombings. As many of us feared, the police have gone out of their way to formulate some New Zealand version of terrorism, and Māori activists have become obvious targets. Activism does not equate to terrorism” Mr Hond said.
Mr Rukuwai stated Parihaka refuses to be intimidated by the court case. “Parihaka will continue to stand solidly in support of Emily and Urs and will use the 18th and 19th of each month to debate and act on the legacy of resistance of Tohu and Te Whiti” he said.