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Sympathy for Fijian coup in Mäoridom

29 May 2000 - By Staff Reporters (NZ Herald)

A Northland Mäori leader has spoken out in support of Fijian coup leader George Speight and his armed hostage-takers.

A spokesman for Ngapuhi, Kingi Taurua, said yesterday that he had received many calls from some factions of the Northland iwi who disagreed with the New Zealand Government's stance on the political crisis in Fiji.

"We don't support what [Prime Minister] Helen Clark is saying, that all New Zealanders are against that guy [George Speight]," Mr Taurua said.

"We support any indigenous people who are fighting for their independence.

"Helen Clark talks about a constitution - we had a constitution in New Zealand in terms of Mäori and that was what was taken away from us by the point of a gun.

"Then they became civilised and used a pen to remove our independence."

Mr Taurua said a hui would be held at Waitangi this Saturday to look at supporting the right of all indigenous peoples to fight for their independence.

Other Mäori leaders were also sympathetic to the plight of the native Fijians but wanted the Pacific state to peacefully resolve the conflict without outside interference.

Lawyer Moana Jackson, of the Wellington Mäori legal service Nga Kaiwhakamarama i Nga Ture said the armed coup was founded on genuine concerns.

Calling for a review of the country's multi-racial constitution, Mr Jackson said there was not enough protection for indigenous Fijian land rights.

Act MP Donna Awatere-Huata said the new constitution had sidelined the Great Council of Chiefs, who were now expected to resolve the hostage drama.

She said the fundamental problem was the way both the native Fijians and the Indians had remained separate from each other over the years.

Mäori rights campaigner Mike Smith said the political crisis should be resolved by the Fijians themselves.

Mäori must support indigenous Pacific peoples who want to protect their sovereign rights but New Zealand as a nation must mind its own business, Mr Smith said.

Auckland theology lecturer Canon Hone Kaa said most Mäori he had spoken to were sympathetic to the stand taken by the rebels but did not support the use of arms.

Rubbishing reports that Mäori could also resort to violence, Mr Kaa said the conflict was a legacy of a colonial regime.

Mäori Council chairman Sir Graham Latimer urged Mäoridom to stay out of the conflict.

"The best idea is [to] keep away and let them work it out," Sir Graham said.

Labour MP John Tamihere plans to holiday in Fiji this Queen's Birthday weekend - flouting his own Government's warnings to avoid non-essential travel.

He will take his partner, Awerangi Durie, but not their six-month-old baby, Hauraki.

But he said he might not go if the situation worsened. He had booked the long weekend some time ago.

Mr Tamihere said he and some of his Mäori colleagues did not condone what had happened but they understood why it had happened.

Heoi ano, na
Ross Nepia Himona

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