Criticism grows over Maori Party MP’s stance on Maori suicides

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Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for the Maori Party must be feeling the weight of the ever growing public condemnation regarding his comments on suicide. He suggested that it might be worth:

considering not celebrating these people’s lives on marae, and they should possibly be buried at the entrance of cemeteries “so their deaths will be condemned by the people

These comments came in the MP’s weekly newspaper column in Rotorua’s Daily Post and were in response to a series of suicides that had happened in the community in the past several weeks.

As his comments began to make their way there social media sites such as Facebook, the response was veracious. Several people are calling on him to resign with others simply wanting an apology.

Mawera Karetai of Whakatane, said “I think that if someone makes that choice, it is because they are lost and alone. Why keep them lost? Why keep them alone? Why punish them for doing the one thing that they feel they are in control of? Suicide is the ultimate cry for help – and far too often the only one we listen to – but it is too late.”

Te Ururoa has obviously never experienced spending time with someone at risk who has taken the final choice. This experience gives a lot of insight. I think he should back off and acknowledge his statement was naive and allow whanau the dignity of grief. – John Lawrence (Facebook)

No doubt there are different protocols at different marae, and we have heard about tangi for suicides that are either/or short in duration, placed at the far end of urupa, or outside.

We understand that many of these ways also harken back to Catholic and Christian traditions which similarly did not allow the those who committed suicide to be given a church burial. However the difference is that today this is NOT the case and these exclusions are not longer practiced within the Church.

Tama Rapihana sums it up nicely saying:

Death, no matter how it occurs, deserves a little empathy and respect, if not for the person who died, then surely for those they leave behind. Nobody wants to lose loved ones no matter how it happens. Being a ‘leader’ he should have known better.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I am a huge fan of the Maori Party, and have great faith in our leaders, however with the comments Mr Flavell has made about isolating our suicide victims has me reconsidering how he as an MP will help our Maori people with an attitude like this. I know he is an individual entitled to his own beliefs and values however when our rangatahi take their lives, its not a spur of the moment thing they just decide to do, definetly not to be cool, it is often due to some other issues, which the individual does not wish to disclose or that they have no other way out. Surely Mr Flavell being a parent, uncle, grandfather etc, this is not what you would do if a suicide happened in your whanau. I am a mother of 6 tamariki and have 5 teenagers. I believe in being open and honest and trying to adjust to our rangatahi’s way of thinking and expectations but sometimes this is difficult. We need to embrace our tamariki, no matter what they do or say. If we show love, listen and let them know they are not alone and find strategies around dealing with issues our suicide rates will decrease, but placing them at the front of an urupa, and holding a one day tangi, tell me – how will this help!, it will cause more pain for those left dealing with the loss of a child. You talk about shame, well to me with your statements the shame should be on you…….

  2. Problem with this type of logic is it means we look at not allowing heaps of whanau who do wrong… so what about the drunk driving uncle who kills himself in a car crash? what about the auntie who smoked for 40 years and the nanny who was obese? in a way they ALL did it to themselves, but no one would suggest not allowing them a tangi or to not let them rest in the urupa with their whanaunga…

    it just doesn’t make sense, we all know that something is wrong, but this is NOT the answer!

    we expect more from our leaders, shame on you Te Ururoa!

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