Saturday, 20 Oct 2007

Police put 'on notice' over raids

By TRACY WATKINS - The Dominion Post | Friday, 19 October 2007
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Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia has put police on notice after claims that this week's terror raids risk a race relations backlash.

Mr Horomia called yesterday for people to withhold judgment till they had all the facts, but said: "If the police have over-reacted there is no doubt that the public will hold them accountable. I'm certainly keeping a close eye on events."

He also admitted that events of recent days risk re-opening old wounds between Maori and Pakeha - but has rejected suggestions by Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples that the raids set race relations back by 100 years.

Meanwhile members of Whakatane's Tawhaki kura and kohanga reo centres will be holding a hikoi today to in protest at police tactics during the raids, which they say have left local children traumatised.

Tawhaki Kohanga Reo licensee Mere Nuku said children were terrified by the activity in the Ruatoki area when armed police stopped a bus taking them to their education centres.

The bus was turned back at a police blockade and the children had to be returned home, she said.

Ms Nuku said professional support offered to the innocent people caught up in the police investigation should have been offered.

"Where is the professional help coming from? It is certainly conspicuous by not being offered out there to those kohanga reo," she said.

Ms Nuku said the police presence in the community was traumatising for the children and disruptive to their learning and today's hikoi was to highlight that.

"Were not protesting. We are saying 'please listen to us, this is what we would like to see happen."

Ms Nuku said she was angry there had been no offers to help the children.

"Is it because we are from Ruatoki? And is it because the majority of children are Maori out here?" she told Radio New Zealand.

"We want the Government to acknowledge any vehicle carrying children to be let through those road blocks."

Ms Nuku said police could follow the vehicle and monitor the driver, but the children should be able to get to their kohanga reos and schools.


As tensions mount over the raids there were calls yesterday from government ministers for cool heads, amid fresh claims that innocent people were being dragged into the police net.

The Green Party demanded answers yesterday to why Swedish banker Oskar Kjellberg, a key speaker at an environment and conservation event at Taupo last weekend, had his laptop seized; and questioned a police raid on a bakery in Taupo where he was staying.

In a possible sign of sensitivities, legislation amending the Terrorism Suppression Act appeared to have dropped down Parliament's list of priorities next week, after failing to make it back to Parliament yesterday.

Government whips said it was so more urgent business could be dealt with, though parties were told earlier that there should be time to debate it this week.

Mr Horomia, meanwhile, appeared to put his neck on the line, by suggesting activist Tame Iti, arrested on firearms charges, was an unlikely terrorist.

"On what I know, and what I know about Tame Iti, I don't think so, but at the end of the day that will come out with all the information," Mr Horomia told 3 News.

He later issued a statement acknowledging that the claims being made by police were serious, "and if people have been plotting with serious intent to use weapons, action clearly needed to be taken".

Dr Sharples has accused police of using stormtrooper tactics and violating the trust between Maori and Pakeha.

But Prime Minister Helen Clark said she could not support his suggestion that race relations had been set back 100 years.

"It's clear to me that there has been at the very least illicit use of firearms and explosive devices. Now that will always call for a police response, it doesn't matter what community, what ethnic group, culture or faith people are doing that are involved with."


Monday's police raids have divided Parliament, setting parties against each other and forcing ministers to appeal for calm.

In Parliament, Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons asked Police Minister Annette King whether she would seek explanations from the police about their conduct during the raids.

Ms King said she would not, which provoked Ms Fitzsimons to suggest the police could do anything without having the explain themselves.

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell referred to "the ninja army" when he questioned Education Minister Steve Maharey about reports that police had boarded a school bus.

The minister said he had been advised that school buses were not boarded.

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark issued a statement demanding that the Greens and the Maori Party "front up to all New Zealanders" and say whether or not they supported the rule of law and the right of the police to do their duty.

"What do these parties expect police to do - ignore their intelligence and the anti-social behaviour of these militant direct-action groups, hoping that they won't carry through on their threats?" he said.

"We expect the weak, guilt-ridden, cringing, liberal Greens to fawn all over this issue.

"The Maori Party, if it had any thoughts for its future generations, would be calling for Maori to rid itself of this subversive and divisive sub-culture - not promote it."

Ms King and Mr Maharey both urged MPs to wait for the evidence to be produced before they reached conclusions about the raids.

"I suggest that they just breathe through their noses for a little bit longer and allow the police to do their work," she said.

Mr Maharey said it was "time for cool heads to prevail" until the police investigation was completed and full details emerged.

- with NZPA

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