Students' award a joke, says Laws

Last updated 05:00 24/10/2009
H IS FOR HONOURED: Otaki School kids received certificates from Joris de Bres after writing a letter to Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws about changing the name of Wanganui to Whanganui. From left, Rautini Thompson, Maria Logan-Richards, Amokura Rangiheuea gather round Mr de Bres.

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Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws says an award given to a group of Otaki primary school pupils for standing up to him is a joke.

Mr Laws today called for the sacking of Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, calling him an "unelected, liberal stooge" and the award a joke.

"He has no interest in mediating between the races – he has every interest in advancing his politically correct and biased views."

Mr Laws cited polls conducted by the New Zealand Herald, YahooXtra and TV3, following his stoush with the students, in which he received the majority of public support

The group of school pupils have been honoured by Mr de Bres for acting with dignity in dealing with criticism from Mr Laws.

The pupils, aged 11 to 13, at Otaki School's kura kaupapa unit, were upset with an angry reply from Mr Laws, whom they wrote to in August urging him to insert the letter "h" in Wanganui.

Mr de Bres presented the girls with certificates yesterday to honour their stance.

"Your message to stand up for yourself is clear. You acted with real dignity and calm and quietly stood up for what you thought when dealing with such rubbish from Wanganui's mayor.

"There has been a huge response from around the country for what you did. I hope the minister in charge of this issue will decide to correct the spelling," Mr de Bres said.

He believed the way they had dealt with criticism was an example for everyone in New Zealand.

Ngarui Wihongi-Manukau, Rautini Thompson, Maria Logan-Richards, Amokura Rangiheueu, Teina Davis and Te Rangiamohia Nikora-Davis were disappointed Mr Laws had failed to respond to issues they had raised about the spelling of the town and asked him to apologise.

His reply had said: "There are so many deficiencies of both fact and logic in your letters I barely know where to start. When your class starts addressing the real issues of Maoridom – particularly the appalling rate of child abuse and child murder within Maori society, then I will take the rest of your views seriously."

"He sounded angry, it was like he was not listening to us because of things happening with our people," Maria said.

Mr Laws later asked the students to afternoon tea in his mayoral office saying, "If the impression was ... I was somehow 'bullying' in my reply, I want to assure you it was the last thing from my mind."

The girls declined the offer.

Although shy about receiving the honour, the girls said they were pleased they had stood up for themselves and would do so again.

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- The Dominion Post

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