Maori politicians are being used as political pawns by mainstream parties, Hone Harawira has told a Native American news service.
According to Indian Country Today Media, the former Maori Party MP, who is now an independent, said: "Maori people who hold office with white parties are basically ignored. They are trotted out to do a speech, and then kicked out of the room when the decisions are made."
When asked about the importance of dedicated indigenous seats in parliament, he added: "At that level it's about learning the skills of macro management, rather than bullshitting yourself that you're part of the government, because the white boys will kick you out."
The comments from the Tai Tokerau MP – who quit the Maori Party on Tuesday – drew stern condemnation from Maori MPs, with Labour's transport, infrastructure and associate Maori affairs spokesman Shane Jones labelling him a "political hoodlum".
"One thing you might say about Hone is that he is a relentless self-publicist," Jones told the Sunday Star-Times. "When he attacks his Maori colleagues and basically says they are like an old guard dog with no teeth, he is just showing that he is always going to be a political hoodlum."Labour's Maori Affairs and Treaty of Waitangi spokesman Parekura Horomia said: "It's a bit rich coming from Hone. He's just departed from the Maori Party, or they have departed from him ... they are in disarray so he needs to sort that lot out before he sorts us out."
When asked if he thought he was being ignored because he was a Maori MP in a largely Pakeha party, Horomia replied: "When you are a minority and you have been doing this like I have for 30-plus odd years, you soon learn and know very well when you are getting nought ... you have to be tough enough to understand that is the environment you are working in and make sure you make the best shot to ensure you utilise the leverage.
"That's what Hone and the Maori Party haven't been able to do together."
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said her party couldn't be labelled with Harawira's accusations. His stance was correct if directed at National and Labour.
"I have seen that played out in Labour and in National where the Maori voice is ignored or subsumed. You saw that in Labour with the foreshore and seabed legislation," she said.
"We have seen that with National consistently, particularly with the way Georgina te Heuheu has been treated ... she is one of their senior MPs but is not treated like a senior MP."
On Tuesday Harawira quit the Maori Party after a long-running feud with party bosses.
Harawira will seek re-election in Tai Tokerau as either an independent MP or for a "new political movement". The Maori Party will not stand a candidate in the electorate.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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