Today’s hui to consider a complaint against Maori Party MP Hone Harawira has turned into a rally in support of him, with his critics not attending the proceedings. The complaint, laid by party whip Te Ururoa Flavell and backed by the other Maori Party MPs, centred around a newspaper column in which Mr Harawira said the Maori Party had become too wrapped up in its coalition with National.
The party’s national council asked for Mr Harawira’s Te Tai Tokerau electorate committee to organise a hui involving Mr Flavell and Mr Harawira.
However, the meeting got under way at the Whakapara Marae, about 23km north of Whangarei, this morning with only Mr Harawira present from the Maori parliamentary caucus. Mr Flavell told NZPA he had not received an invitation to the meeting. “I have had no communication whatsoever from the Tai Tokerau electorate, or anyone associated with it,” Mr Flavell said. “All I know is that it was put back in the hands of the electorate committee to try and resolve it, and the theory was that since I was the complainant I would have had some communication, but I haven’t, so now it’s back in the hands of the national council.”
Party president Pem Bird, who was absent from today’s hui and said he had also had not received an invitation, said the meeting could not resolve the issue.
“The crucial meeting is the one with Te Ururoa Flavell present with Harawira, without both present there can be no resolution.”
Mr Bird told nzherald.co.nz he only knew about today’s hui from an email sent to him by Te Tai Tokerau electorate officials at 9.23pm yesterday.
He said he was upset media knew about the time and venue of the hui before he was informed.
“It is disappointing. I can say that. It is disappointing.
“I get an email at 9.23pm last night and I wasn’t told the time or exactly where the marae is.
“We’ve been lambasted and criticised for going the Pakeha way. Well this is a Maori process… Face to face. Whose faces? Te Ururoa’s and Hone’s.”
Mr Bird said he would discuss the party’s next step with the national council following today’s hui.
The council had pushed for a meeting between the two MPs, and Mr Bird said it would be excellent if that could still happen.
“Another outcome would be that the broader interests of the party need to be considered and we would consider the next step in the process, the disciplinary dispute process.”
About 100 people were gathered at today’s hui, and signs saying “Hone’s the man” and “change the leadership” were posted outside the marae.
Te Tai Tokerau member Ruben Taipari said Mr Harawira was just doing what he had been elected to do and standing up for all Maori people.
“A lot of people think he’s just a trouble maker and just out there to pick a fight all the time, but a lot of us young people support him because at least someone’s in there fighting for our rights,” Mr Taipari said.
Asked whether Mr Harawira should leave the Maori Party and stand independently, Mr Taipari said he should do what’s best for his constituents.
“Personally, I think he should stay with the party if they can get on, but if they can’t get on then what’s the point of staying in a place were you’re not wanted or you’re not being effective. Better that you go off and do your own thing and continue your fight like that. It’s better for him, it’s better for them.”
Mr Harawira was expected to address the media this afternoon.
Hui facilitator Malcolm Mulholland said the remainder of the day’s discussions – which were not open to the media – would focus on the complaint and the process by which it was laid. Many felt it was done behind closed doors without necessary consultation.
– NZPA and NZ Herald staff