Key: Harawira's bin Laden comments 'ridiculous'

07:18, May 05 2011

Independent MP Hone Harawira has apologised for his comments on Osama bin Laden's death.

Harawira, speaking in Maori on TVNZ's Te Karere, said the slain al Qaeda leader was a fighter for "the rights, the land and the freedom of his people".

His comments had been seen as support for bin Laden's actions which was a mistake, he said. "Using terror for political reasons is never acceptable," he said in a statement this afternoon.

He apologised for how he expressed himself.

"As Maori we do not speak ill of someone who has died even if such a person has done bad things."

Earlier today Prime Minister John Key said Harawira's likening of Osama bin Laden to a freedom fighter was a "ridiculous statement".


Bin Laden was killed by US special forces in Pakistan on Monday, ending a nine-year search since the 9/11 attacks which killed more than 3000 people in the United States.

Key said at the end of the day bin Laden was responsible for the murder of thousands of people around the world.

Key and Labour leader Phil Goff were quick to welcome the news of bin Laden's death earlier this week.

But Harawira, speaking in te reo on television this week said that it was Maori custom to honour and mourn the dead.

''Despite what the media said his family, his tribe, his people are mourning, they mourn for a man who fought for the rights, the land and the freedom of his people,'' Harawira told TVNZ's Te Karere on Monday.

People should not damn bin Laden but celebrate the positive aspects of life.

''I acknowledge him and bid him farewell, return to your ancestors who wait for you behind the veil of death.''


Harawira later said he was not a fan of bin Laden but could not help noting his passing.

He applied the same logic to former ACT leader Rodney Hide today.

Harawira described Hide as a "overweight little nobody", but said he worked hard to win his Epsom seat.

Hide lost weight as he "stomped and clumped" his way through the television Dancing with the Stars competition he had no chance of winning, Harawira said.

"I ain't no great fan of Rodney Hide, and I ain't no great fan of Osama bin Laden either. But you can't help but note their passing."

Hide was responsible for bringing ACT back from the grave and then got tossed out without any discussion with the members or voters, he said.

"Rising up out of his own grave comes Don Brash, a 70 year-old political corpse... Brash meets with the board of ACT and gets them to dump Rodney as leader and give him the job."


Maori Party MP Rahui Katene said Harawira's comments were unfortunate.

"This is a terrorist who has been outed as a terrorist and it is a fact that and there is evidence there to show that."

There were a lot of people did not agree with bin Laden's actions and it was wrong to say all Maori thought the same way as Harawira.

However, she said she would have preferred he faced a trial rather than being killed.

"I don't believe in the death penalty. Natural justice and political justice and legal justice demands should have come about."


Meanwhile, political commentator Ranginui Walker compared bin Laden to the Maori leader Te Kooti.

Walker, speaking to Te Karere on Tuesday, said Maori would see similarities between the two.

Te Kooti was exiled to the Chathams without trial in 1865 after he was accused of spying while fighting alongside Government forces. He returned as a religious leader of the Ringatu faith.

"[Te Kooti] fought people who came to invade his countries and confiscated its wealth," Walker said.

Walker said bin Laden should not have been executed without trial.

"[He] should be judged in a court and all claims investigated so that we can all see where the truth lies."

Walker said the problem with New Zealand's ties to America was that "no matter where they go into war in the world we get dragged into battle."

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples told Maori TV's Native Affairs show he thought New Zealand should stay out of the debate.

''I'm not sure whether this is good for the world or whether it will just start more war.''

Everyone had been waiting for this outcome but New Zealand was isolated from the issue and should remain so, he said.

Sharples said revenge was part of Maori history but the people did not agree with the extent of celebration over bin Laden's death.

* Comments on this story are now closed.