Key to miss Horomia's burial after change of day
VERNON SMALL AND HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Prime Minister John Key is defending his decision not to attend Parekura Horomia's burial on Saturday.
Key was originally expected to attend the MP's funeral when it was scheduled on Friday, however when the date of the burial was moved back a day his schedule was not changed to accommodate it.
His office has refused to say what the Prime Minister will be doing on Saturday instead, or whether he had been asked not to attend on Saturday.
''Parekura Horomia's tangi takes place over a number of days and the Prime Minister plans to attend on Friday,'' a spokeswoman said in response to a number of written questions.
Today Key told reporters it was normal for people to attend different stages of a tangi.
''We'll be going there on Friday. My understanding is that there's quite a large group of ministers that will come with us.
''As you know these tangis spread over a number of days and it's normal for people to go at different times. I think the Maori Party's going tomorrow from memory...Labour will obviously be there today,'' Key said in Auckland.
''This will be an opportunity for senior National ministers and MPs to say their farewell to what I think was a fine Member of Parliament.''
It was likely Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson would represent the Government on Saturday, Key said earlier.
Labour leader David Shearer has cut short a visit to the United States to be at the tangi, and he and his caucus will be welcomed on to Hauiti Marae in Tolaga Bay today.
Horomia was able to farewell friends and family before his death, but died much earlier than expected, Mr Shearer said.
"Obviously, Parekura was not well, but nobody expected him to go downhill as fast as he did."
The MP's death would be a great loss for the party. His burial will set in train the process for a by-election in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti seat that will probably be held next month.
Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson said it was too soon to discuss the by-election, including possible candidates, and the Maori and Mana parties have taken the same stance.
A spokesman for Mana said the tangi would be "huge" and politicians would not turn their mind to a by-election until after the funeral.
A by-election after the death of a sitting MP is rare, the last being after the death of Timaru MP Sir Basil Arthur in 1985.
Green co-leader Rod Donald died in 2005 but he was a list MP so no by-election was needed.
- The Dominion Post
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