'Iwi politics' gagged me

Labour's Te Tai Hauauru candidate has blamed "iwi politics" for preventing her from addressing her party leader on her home marae at Ratana celebrations.

Soraya Peke-Mason was stopped from speaking during a powhiri to welcome members of the Labour, Green and Mana political parties on to Ratana Pa during yesterday's traditional political gathering.

Ms Peke-Mason, who finished second in the Maori electorate in November's election, said she was not disappointed at what happened as the message she had wanted to deliver was presented on her behalf by the chairman of the executive committee, Waka Palmer.

Ms Peke-Mason, a Rangitikei district councillor and Ratana resident, said she had sought permission to speak from Mr Palmer but that was challenged by other members of the Ratana delegation in what she called "iwi politics".

"A compromise was met in that the words I was to speak were delivered by the chairman."

The message delivered on her behalf was that it was time for Labour and Ratana to talk about their alliance.

"It's about being more proactive about the relationship during the year," Ms Peke-Mason said. "We've already commenced those discussions."

Ratana Church secretary William Meremere said Ms Peke-Mason had asked to speak on the marae but that was opposed by "family members".

Mr Meremere said the objection was not because of concerns about anything Ms Peke-Mason might have said, but because of tikanga.

There were protocols regarding who could speak on the marae and whether women could speak, he said.

Special dispensations had been made at times, Mr Meremere said. Former prime minister Helen Clark had been allowed to speak at Ratana in previous years, he said.

Miss Clark's right to speak was famously challenged by Titewhai Harawira at the lower marae at Waitangi in 1998, and the confrontation reduced Miss Clark to tears.

In 2005 Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples laid down a challenge to Maori protocol, saying women should be free to speak during welcoming ceremonies.

"I believe it is time now for women to assume the talking roles [during powhiri] as well as men. The reasons for women not speaking may have gone and need not be enforced," he said at the time.

Labour Party leader David Shearer declined to comment on the incident, saying it was a matter for members of Ratana, not the Labour Party.

Manawatu Standard