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Cablegate: Who Speaks for Maori in New Zealand?

DE RUEHWL #0797/01 3091903
R 051903Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary. Race relations in politically correct New Zealand
remain a sensitive issue. Two different viewpoints on the rights of
the indigenous Maori were on display over the weekend of October
27-28 as two minor parties, the Maori Party and the New Zealand
First Party held their respective annual conferences. As part of a
wider plan to siphon off residual Maori support for the ruling
Labour Party ahead of the 2008 election, the Maori Party accused
Labour's Maori MPs of ignoring the needs of Maori. At his party's
annual conference, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters accused
the Maori Party of equating Maori autonomy aspirations with
apartheid and race-based separatism in New Zealand. Labour's Maori
Affairs Minister accused the Maori Party of political opportunism in
light Maori anger following the recent police terror raids; PM Clark
addressed the Labour Party convention in Auckland on November 2 and
called for Labour supporters to suspend judgment on the raids and to
move ahead in a spirit of reconciliation. End Summary.

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Maori Party Accuses Labour of Forgetting Maori
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2. (SBU) At its annual conference over the weekend the Maori Party
vigorously attacked Maori MPs within the ruling Labour Party
accusing them of abandoning the indigenous Maori population. Maori
Party MPs also demanded the resignation of Maori Affairs Minister
Parekura Horomia. In the wake of the police terror raids two weeks
ago, the Maori Party accused Horomia of "abandoning his people in
their time of need." Given that the majority of those arrested in
the raids were Maori led some in the Maori community to believe that
the arrests were racially motivated. Horomia, who represents one of
New Zealand's seven electorate seats specially allocated to Maori,
stated that he has no intention of resigning. He accused the Maori
Party, vocal critics of the raids, of using the resulting anger felt
by some Maori for political advantage in an attempt to siphon Maori
support from the ruling Labour Party. (Note: The Labour Party has
historically enjoyed loyal political support from Maori and has held
a virtual monopoly on the Maori seats since Labour first came to
power in 1935. However, at the 2005 election the newly formed Maori
Party won four of the seven existing Maori seats, with Labour only
able to hold onto the remaining three. End Note).
3. (SBU) The Maori Party's conference attack on Labour's Maori MPs
is part of a broader strategy to portray itself as the only
political party capable of faithfully representing the needs of
Maori. Post expects more broadsides to follow as the Maori Party
seeks to claim for itself the entire complement of Maori seats at
next year's election. Maori Party MPs have already accused Labour's
Maori MPs of opposing its proposals on educational issues and voting
down an inquiry into treaty claims despite United Nations
condemnation of the process. Party co-leader, Dr. Pita Sharples, has
argued that Labour's Maori electorate MPs are "Labour first and then
Party Wants Political Clout; Unsure How To Use It
--------------------------------------------- ----
4. (SBU) If the Maori Party succeeds in capturing all seven Maori
seats, it will enter into the next parliament with expanded
political leverage and a greater ability to influence the shape of
the next government. In what is expected to be tight election, even
if the Maori Party failed to improve on its 2005 results, it could
conceivably still end up in a king-making position as the main
parties contest for its support. However, should the Maori Party
find itself in such a position, it remains unclear whether the Party
will take advantage. At the annual conference, Maori Party MPs
could not reach a consensus on whether the Party should retain its
ability to speak independently by staying outside of future
governments or formally join one and advance Maori interests from
within. (Note: The Maori Party was formed in July 2004 by former
Labour Cabinet Minister Tariana Turia after she left the Labour
Party in protest over the Government's decision to enact the highly
contentious foreshore and seabed law, which refused the Maori claim
to ownership of part or all of New Zealand's foreshore and seabed.
Turia, a vocal and often controversial advocate of Maori rights,
shares the leadership with noted Maori academic Pita Sharples.
Critics have challenged the Maori Party's claim to be the political
voice of all Maori by pointing to the lack of uniform positions
within the Maori community. End Note.)
New Zealand First Attacks Maori Apologists
5. (SBU) The New Zealand First Party, led by Foreign Minister
Winston Peters, also held its annual conference over the same
weekend as the Maori Party and offered a stark contrast to the Maori
Party's position. In a speech to delegates clearly aimed at New
Zealand First's voter base, Peters launched into a scathing attack
on racial separatism where he likened those who protested against
the terror raids and arrests as supporting an apartheid philosophy.
Peters asserted that the hundreds of people protesting against the
raids were doing so purely on the basis of race and not an assertion
of innocence. In a thinly veiled reference to the Maori Party,
Peters asked why a political party based on race was held up as "the

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moral compass" for New Zealand. (Note: Although Peters is from
Maori descent, he rarely refers to his heritage in political
discourse. End Note).
6. (SBU) Peters, whose party needs a boost in the polls, also
criticized his colleagues in the ruling Labour Party and the
opposition National Party by accusing both parties of co-enabling
Maori separatism over the last 20 years by being too timid in
response to Maori demands for special treatment. Although he
allowed that the main parties only tolerated Maori separatism for
fear that any stand against it would be deemed politically
incorrect, Peters was reluctant to further explain how they actively
encouraged separatism in New Zealand.
7. (SBU) The Maori Party and the Green Party immediately condemned
Peters for his statements and the logic behind them. Peters'
reasoning was also criticized by a leading New Zealand legal
scholar, who argued that Peters' claim that self-determination by
any minority entity within a modern democratic nation simply could
not work was ill-conceived. Dr. David Williams, a professor of law
at the University of Auckland, argued that there are existing legal
frameworks that allow for successful indigenous peoples' autonomy
which do not degrade the state, as Peters infers any such move
inevitably would do. Williams cited the indigenous self-determined
nations of the Nunanvet and Nishgaa nations of Canada, the Sami in
Norway and even the Scots in the United Kingdom, as examples of
indigenous peoples exercising self-determination and autonomy in
their own representative institutions at no harm to the greater
state in which they reside. (Note: At the center of the police
raids were members of the Maori Tuhoe tribes who have who have long
sought the right to self-determination. End Note). Williams urged
New Zealand politicians to find a rational balance between the
operation of the state and the rights of indigenous peoples to
Labour and the Maori Community
8. (SBU) Labour has a difficult task of unseating the incumbent
Maori Party MPs from their seats at the next election. Labour will
fully contest these seats, but it is wary that all four Maori Party
MPs are popular within their respective electorates. Nonetheless,
Labour is confident of holding on to its three existing Maori seats.
This confidence is probably justified for just two of these seats.
Maori Labour MPs Horomia and Nanaia Mahuta are highly respected
within the Maori community -- Horomia for his position as Minister
of Maori Affairs and his front bench status; Mahuta for her own
political status - as Minister of both Customs and Youth Affairs -
and her ancestry (she is of Maori aristocratic lineage). In the
deeply hierarchical and tribal Maori society, such familial status
counts for much. Therefore, both MPs are likely to keep their
seats. Labour will, however, be concerned that the Maori Party
could pick up a fifth Maori seat at the expense of Labour incumbent
Mahara Okeroa, who does not share the same sort of status and
popularity that his colleagues enjoy.
9. (SBU) Labour has a difficult tightrope to walk with respect to
the Maori vote. Labour considers itself to be the most inclusive of
the New Zealand political parties, and cannot afford to be seen as
insensitive to Maori voters. However, Labour may also need New
Zealand First as a partner in government again in 2008, so will have
to put up with a certain level of rhetoric from Winston Peters, who
will increasingly distance himself from the government as the
election period moves ahead. In addressing Labour party members at
the party convention in Auckland on November 3, PM Clark urged
Labour rank and file to suspend judgment of police action in the
terror raids while the legal process continues, and to move ahead in
a spirit of reconciliation - a clear signal that she recognizes some
Labour vulnerability within the Maori community as a result of the

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