Raids set Maori-Pakeha relations back 100 years - Sharples

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Maori party co-leader Pita Sharples claims this week's anti-terror raids have set race relations back 100 years.

He said the raids in Tuhoe land are reminiscent of the atrocities committed at Parihaka in the 19th Century.

Speaking at a conference in Queensland yesterday, Dr Sharples said he could hardly believe history was repeating itself.

In 1881, armed constabulary raided the non-violent settlement of Parihaka, arresting Maori prophets Te Whiti and Tohu and destroying the settlement.

In a statement released by the Maori Party, Dr Sharples was said to be disgusted by this week's raids, which he said had set Maori and Pakeha race-relations back a hundred years.

Dr Sharples said it was ironic that New Zealand chose to invoke the rulings of the United Nations but not to support the rights of Maori.

"When it suits this country, it invokes the rulings of the United Nations - such as Terrorism Suppression Act - but when it comes to supporting the rights of indigenous people as passed by the UN then it turns its butt."

Mr Sharples said the action violated the trust that has been developing between Maori and Pakeha.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said she could not support Dr Sharples' statement.

"It is clear to me that there has been, at the very least, illicit use of firearms and explosive devices. That will always call for police response."

She said it did not matter what ethnic group, culture or faith the alleged perpetrators were.

"It is not a Government directive; it is a police operational decision," Helen Clark said.

Seventeen people were arrested in Monday's raids on Maori and environmental activists throughout the country which also resulted in the seizure of weapons.

Police had been investigating suspected weapons training camps.

Five people, including Tuhoe activist Tame Iti, were refused bail when they appeared in court yesterday.

Police spokesman Jon Neilson says raids will continue as long as police deemed them necessary and that further charges for those arrested have not been ruled out.

- NZ HERALD STAFF, NZPA, NEWSTALK ZB

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