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Update - Denial of the effects of colonisation ?
4 September 2000
This is an update of our alert ‘Denial of the effects of colonisation ?’ (31 August 2000) and is written in response to Helen Clark's interview on Radio NZ this morning. There are a number of issues raised by that interview. The first is that Helen Clark appears to have gone along with the mass media interpretation of what Tariana Turia said, as illustrated by the following:
'Firstly, I drew her attention to the fact that the word holocaust has a very special meaning and while we have incidents in New Zealand history that we’re not particularly proud of, I’m afraid none of them can be compared with the trucking and railing of six million Jews to gas chambers for extermination, so that word must never be used again in a New Zealand context.'
As we pointed out in our earlier alert ... ' [Tariana] 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.' (PMA, 31 August 2000).
It is not clear to us to whom the instruction 'that word must never be used again in a New Zealand context' is directed.
Secondly, in response to the question 'Do you believe colonisation has in any way had a negative impact on Mäori child abuse statistics?' Helen Clark responded: 'No, I would not be as specific as that at all. Look, what we know is that when my forebears and your forebears came into this country it changed forever but then history is full of those changes. I think there’s a point where you have to move on. We can all look at context, it may be a very interesting subject for academic debate and research but what I want Ministers focussed on is the here and now of very real problems in the community which we must deal with because the level of child abuse in this country is a disgrace'.
Again it is not clear to whom the 'you have to move on' is addressed, is she speaking to Mäori or to the Jewish community - there has been very real (and justified) distress from both in the past week or so. If she is speaking to one community, but not the other, then why is that ?
As we pointed out in last week’s alert ... '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 [Tariana’s] remarks is that many people do not have the slightest inkling of the devastation and destruction colonisation has wrought.' By her apparent dismissal of the impact of colonisation on Mäori, it is not readily apparent that Helen Clark herself has an appreciation of some of the atrocities which occurred here.
In the same interview, Helen spoke of her forthcoming trip to The State of the World Forum where she will be ... 'talking from the perspective of a leader of a small country which has taken a leading role on nuclear disarmament' ... it will be interesting to see her response if anyone uses the phrase ‘nuclear holocaust’ there, a phrase often used by nuclear disarmers and politicians warning of the dangers of the possible use and uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons.
* What you can do
If you wish to contact the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Cabinet or Tariana Turia’s office/s, their 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; Tariana Turia, Associate Minister of Mäori Affairs, office - tel (04) 470 6571, fax (04) 495 8472.
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.