Editorial: Pharaoh not needed in Egypt or Waikato

Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012

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OPINION: The English got rid of the absolute power of the monarchy in 1215 when King John's seal was attached to the Magna Carta at Runnymede. In Waikato, former MP Tukoroirangi Morgan wants to bring it back to protect the "mana" and "prestige" of the Maori king.

Mr Morgan, a central figure in the long-running dispute between King Tuheitia and sacked Waikato-Tainui parliament chairwoman Tania Martin, wants the king given the power to veto decisions made by the parliament and even to dissolve the body that represents Tainui's 63,000 members. "We must never be able to go to court to settle our differences," he said this week.

The parliament and Waikato Maori should reject Mr Morgan's proposal.

The dispute between the king and tribal representatives in the parliament appears to be over control of Treaty settlement moneys that have now grown to $800 million. Those moneys were paid to Tainui by the Crown to settle the historical grievances of all Tainui, not just those of the king or the coterie of advisers who cluster about him.

Decisions about how that money is invested and how the dividends from it are spent should be made by all Tainui.

King Tuheitia's mother, the Maori queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, was widely respected within Maoridom and outside it for the quiet dignity with which she performed her role. Behind the scenes, she knew how to work the phones but, publicly, she made a point of staying above the rough and tumble of politics.

King Tuheitia shows no such restraint. Not only has he got himself offside with the Government and alienated much of the Pakeha world by nonsensically declaring that Maori have "always owned the water", but he has also allowed himself to be drawn into intra-tribal disputes and wrangles over the spending of Tainui money by the executive Mr Morgan once headed.

Far be it for The Dominion Post to tender advice on tikanga Maori (Maori custom). However, world history shows that nothing good ever comes of citizens giving up their rights to make decisions about their assets and their futures to dictators. As those protesting Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi's decision to grant himself the powers of a pharaoh know, once surrendered, such rights are nearly impossible to regain.

The Maori king fills an important ceremonial role for Tainui. He is a link to the past and should be a figurehead. However, he should not become involved in intra-tribal disputes and or be making decisions about the disposition of tribal assets. Those are matters for all of Tainui to determine.

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The king's role is to bring his people together, not to be a source of disunity.

Mr Morgan and the others advising him are doing Tainui and the Kingitanga movement a disservice.

Respect is earned, not inherited. If the king is worried that his mana is diminishing, he should act in such a way as to enhance it. If Mr Morgan is concerned that tribal money is being wasted in legal disputes, he should attempt to resolve differences in such a way that recourse to the courts is not necessary.

- The Dominion Post

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