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Denial of the effects of colonisation ?
31 August 2000
The backlash against comments made by Tariana Turia in her address to the Psychological Society Conference on 29 August, has been astounding in two respects. Her remarks have either been inaccurately reported, or misrepresented; and the reaction to them strongly suggests a total denial of the facts of the colonisation of this country.
On the first point, ‘The Dominion’ today began its front page article ‘Turia stands by Holocaust remarks’ with:
"Associate Mäori Affairs Minister Tariana Turia is unrepentant about comparing the European colonisation of New Zealand with the Nazi Holocaust.
The comparison sparked a flood of calls to the Prime Minister’s Office, talkback fury and almost universal criticism yesterday.
What Tariana actually said was:
Do you consider for example the effects of the trauma of colonisation? I know that psychology has accepted the relevance of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
I understand that much of the research done in this area has focussed on the trauma suffered by the Jewish survivors of the holocaust of World War Two. I also understand the same has been done with the Vietnam veterans.
What seems to not have received similar attention is the holocaust suffered by indigenous people including Mäori as a result of colonial contact and behaviour.
The Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal made such a reference in its Taranaki Report of 1996 and I recollect what appeared to be a "but our holocaust was worse than your holocaust" debate. A debate I must add, I do not wish to enter.
She did not compare "the European colonisation of New Zealand with the Nazi Holocaust", and she specifically stated she was not into competitive holocaust debates. What she said was that the trauma of the colonisation of this country (and elsewhere) had not received the same kind of attention - and in this she is obviously correct, the reaction against her comments alone is proof of that.
Indeed, the reaction indicates a widespread denial of the facts of the impact of colonisation on Mäori. The Collins 1993 English Dictionary and Thesaurus gives the first meaning of ‘holocaust’ as "great destruction or loss of life or the source of such destruction, esp fire." Given the great destruction of Mäori culture, economic base, political systems and religious belief, and the loss of life so that less than 30% of the Mäori population survived two generations of settlement, then ‘holocaust’ seems a reasonable description of the impact of colonisation on Mäori.
Within this overall loss are of course specific examples of atrocity - the armed invasion of Parihaka is one which comes readily to mind, with the opening of the Parihaka Exhibition in Wellington this past week. Nine hundred and fifty five armed volunteers and six hundred and forty four Armed Constabulary were sent to deal with people who were peacefully resisting the theft of their land. More than four hundred resisters were arrested before the invasion. The invasion was marked by rapes; the looting of the resisters property; the burning of their homes and uprooting of their crops; the forced relocation under armed escort of 1507 men, women and children; arrests which continued for three weeks after the invasion; then imprisonment without trial in dank caves for periods of up to two years.
Part of the backlash against Tariana’s comments has come from those of the ‘it’s time to move on’ school of thought. However, it is a basic principle of conflict resolution that before people can move on from any hurt and harm they have suffered individually or collectively, their loss and suffering has to be acknowledged. What is clear from the reaction to her remarks is that many people do not have the slightest inkling of the devastation and destruction colonisation has wrought.
Of the various statements issued by politicians condemning Tariana Turia the most startling has come from Jenny Shipley. It features incendiary mixed metaphors such as: "Comments like Tariana Turia's widen gaps rather than close them. They have the potential to cause huge division and seriously damage race relations in New Zealand. Her latest bombshell has thrown petrol into an already sensitive area." We have included the full text of her statement at the end of this alert because it is a truly appalling indication of the level of understanding amongst some politicians.
Jenny Shipley, of course, is an expert on serious damage to race relations.
You may recall her comments in parliament on 16 May 2000 during the debate on the sale of the high-tech radio spectrum:
" ... this government is saying that, somehow or other, Mäori cannot cope on their own; that, somehow or other, a racial allocation in the form of a discount is needed to close the gap. Where is the 5 percent discount for Pacific Island people, if they are actually causing trouble as well? They climb in the windows of other New Zealanders at night. It is not only Mäori."
Interesting how there was very little backlash against what Jenny Shipley said.
* What you can do
One of the major concerns we have from the mass media coverage are the reports that Helen Clark’s office has been inundated with complaints about Tariana Turia’s speech. If you would like more information than that included above, you can read Tariana's speech for yourself.
If you wish, you could contact Helen Clark’s office and express your support for Tariana’s remarks. You could also contact Jim Anderton as Deputy Prime Minister, and / or the Cabinet. Contact details are: phone calls and faxes (all to be prefixed by 04 by those of you outside of Wellington): Helen Clark, Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9998, fax 473 3579; Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9011, fax 495 8441; The Cabinet (collectively), office - tel 471 9743, fax 472 6332.
You could also let Tariana Turia’s office know of your support, contact details are tel (04) 470 6571, fax (04) 495 8472.
If you wish to let Jenny Shipley know what you think about her comments, the contact details for her office are tel (04) 471 9838, fax (04) 472 2075.
Alternatively you can write to any of the above, your letter should be addressed to the relevant person and posted (no stamp needed) to Parliament Buildings, Wellington.
Is Tariana Turia Speaking For The Government ?
The Prime Minister must reject out of hand the Associate Minister of Maori Affairs' views on colonisation, the Treaty and the position of Maori, Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today.
"Comments like Tariana Turia's widen gaps rather than close them. They have the potential to cause huge division and seriously damage race relations in New Zealand.
"Her latest bombshell has thrown petrol into an already sensitive area. Helen Clark must make it clear to New Zealanders where the Government stands.
"As a Minister outside Cabinet Tariana Turia is part of the Executive and is bound by the convention of collective responsibility.
"On the face of it, when she speaks as a Minister she is speaking on behalf of the Government. As a Minister, she must represent Government policy.
"In the past Helen Clark has made allowances for Tariana Turia, saying she was 'inexperienced.'
"The Prime Minister cannot ignore these comments. She must make an unequivocal statement about whether she supports the Minister's views or not. If not, she should censure her Minister immediately, before she does more damage to race relations in New Zealand.
"This event builds on others which are causing real disquiet.
"If Tariana Turia is indeed driving Government policy toward Maori then New Zealanders have real reason for concern. We are seeing the Treaty being written into the health legislation, which could have all sorts of consequences.
"While all political parties in my experience are genuinely committed to closing the gaps that exist in health, welfare, education and employment, this won't be achieved by rewriting history," Mrs Shipley said.