Porirua cemetery set to ban gang insignia

Mongrel Mob member Dennis Makalio says such a ban would be in insult to members.
Mongrel Mob member Dennis Makalio says such a ban would be in insult to members.

Gang insignia could be banned from Porirua cemetery headstones after a woman had her husband's body disinterred and moved when a Mongrel Mob member was buried next to him.

However, a Mongrel Mob spokesman says such a move would be intrusive and disrespectful.

Porirua City Council is proposing to ban offensive wording or designs on gravestones at Whenua Tapu cemetery. In 2008 a man's body was moved after his widow, a daily visitor, took offence to gang insignia on a neighbouring grave's headstone.

The proposal is part of an overhaul of the council's cemeteries management plan and bylaw. At present there is no policy on swear words, artwork or any headstone inscription that could potentially cause offence, a report states.

"The council has previously received complaints regarding wording/design on monuments that were seen as offensive by members of the public. To address this, the proposed management plan states that when authorising a monument council will take into consideration the wording and decorations on the monuments when giving its approval."

The issue will be offered for public consultation from May 15 to June 18.

The council is keen to know what people would find offensive on headstones, and submissions will help shape its policy. Mongrel Mob member Dennis Makalio says such a ban would be in insult to members.

"People have worn this all their lives. It's part of their lives. It's like telling Samoans to take off their lava-lavas at a funeral," he says. "It's like racism. It's like, 'we don't want a Maori next to us'."

About 10 years ago the Mongrel Mob agreed to remove the words "seig f...ing heil", a Mob salute, from headstones, replacing it with the acronym "SFH", Mr Makalio says.

He was not aware of the latest council plan, but he says the council tend to persecute the Mob, which is a Porirua institution.

"Councillors have always been against us from day one. At the end of the day, we've been here since 1969," he says.

"It's going back to saying where we can wear our patches."

Mr Makalio often prepares Mob graves for burial, and has photographed 178 Mob graves nationwide for a Mob history he is writing.

Insignia makes the graves easier to locate for visiting gang members, Mr Makalio says. Council rules would allow the Mob to ask for a separate section of Whenua Tapu, like Muslims and RSA members have, which Mr Makalio is open to.

"It's no different to Anzac and all that stuff. Whenua Tapu is about respect. It's not about telling people how they should show respect."

Human Rights Commission spokesman Gilbert Wong says the issue is new to him. People are welcome to complain to the commission but there are no legal grounds for such a discrimination case, unlike instances of racism, sexism and ageism.

"The issue needs to be dealt with sensitively," Mr Wong says.

Kapi-Mana News