Saturday, 20 Oct 2007

Police move may anger moderates

By RUTH HILL - The Dominion Post | Wednesday, 17 October 2007
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Maori academics and politicians have warned that police raids on Maori activists could have the opposite effect and fuel the fire of extremism.

Professor Taiarahia Black from Massey University said there was widespread disquiet within Maoridom at the "heavy-handed" police actions.

"For people who already feel marginalised, this is going to add fuel to the fire," he said.

"The sensationalist reports only make those people (with a potentially violent agenda) feel important and will draw other people to their cause."

The Government and the police would have been better developing proper protocols for reaching out to isolated communities, he said. "Where's the respect? What's the basis for these seizures?"

Victoria University lecturer Tonga Karena, who has close family ties with Tuhoe, said his first concern was for the innocent people, especially the children, who had been caught up in the action.

Inadvertently or intentionally, police had created fear in the community, where the memory of historical oppression remained strong.

Mr Karena said putting the terrorist label on a whole community was unfair; even setting up a wananga (educational institution) could be construed as an act of terrorism.

"It's a big leap to say people learning bushcraft are plotting to overthrow the Government ... Where is the space for freedom of expression?

"The Government is trying to prove this level of executive action is justified, but the irony is they are likely to antagonise moderates and exacerbate the situation."

The Maori Party MP for Waiariki, Te Ururoa Flavell, said there was huge concern in the local community, who felt they were under siege.

"At various points in time many of us involved in activist activities who are now sitting in Parliament could have found ourselves in the same position."

He said it was not surprising that there were guns in the Ureweras because many people supplemented their diet with wild meat, but he did not believe there was any agenda for a violent struggle.

"At the time of the business of the fiscal envelope (the proposed cap on Treaty of Waitangi claims) and the seabed and foreshore issue there was huge anger, but even then there was no suggestion ... about taking up arms."

He said when the Terrorism Suppression Act was passed in 2002, Maori predicted it would only be "a matter of time" before it was used against them.

Some people were wondering if this action, just after the release of the select committee report on the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill, was a chance to test the act.

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