Tommy Kapai: Artistry of handling the jandal

By Tommy Kapai

There have been many quotes and colloquialisms, whaikorero and karakia spoken about the sudden departure of Parekura Horomia and the legacy he will leave.

On and off the marae "The Chief", as he was known, was a people's politician and the quote from political commentator Derek Fox, who described Parekura as "a pair of jandals that you get more and more comfortable wearing after a while", was for me both bang on and beautiful.

The Chief seemed to carry on board an unusual stealth-like sensor that allowed him to dodge the radar of reading about himself on the front page of the country's tabloids.

Even on his many marae visits here to Tauranga Moana I have watched him work his jandal-wearing magic by heading straight for the workers out the back instead of mixing it with the men of mana out the front on the paepae.

This is most unusual, not just for politicians but for most other powerful people for that matter who become almost dependent on the daily dose of back slapping and self-serving adoration.

I once heard the term "applause junkie" by a clever comedian who was, in fact, referring to fellow actors and comedians, and I think the label could well suit many of our high-flying politicians, but not so The Chief, whose feet or his jandals were planted firmly on the ground.

One politician who has flip-flopped his way into notoriety for all the wrong reasons is Aaron Gilmore who will soon be asking "who was I" not "who am I", especially when the boss sends him away for a lesson on learning the art of jandal wearing.

What has been signalled from The Chief's departure from his people and politics is who will wear his jandals for the future within Labour and how do you fill such large footsteps without getting the thong wrong?

Then comes the bigger challenge for National and the Maori Party who must be more than nervous about the inroads the Greens and Labour are making into their putea of potential voters come next election?

The irony of the Greens' Turei becoming the next Turia and taking with her a hikoi of Labour loyalists has somehow not registered with the "Key aura" coalition and, quicker than you can say green green grass of home, there could be new kaitiaki (caretakers) of Kiwiland.

Locally, there have been a few flip-flops by some who cannot handle the jandal - none more so than Simon Chisholm, who now knows what the word utu means when it comes to dishing out the dirt on the footy field.

On the subject of knockout punches, the sooner we knock out K2, the so-called legal high, from our corner dairies the better for our kids, who already have a lethal cocktail of drugs and alcohol to turn them into idiots.

On the flipside of that flop is the proposed Cultural Centre at Coronation Park, something that I am sure The Chief would have supported happily given the stance he took on promoting the potential of Maori culture to our overseas visitors.

Back in the day when I worked closely with The Chief's team at MSD and CEG, he championed our endeavours to put Maori culture and crafts on to visiting cruise ships and to have them come out to our marae.

For many of us who have worked in this industry, tourism is the silver lining in the long line of unemployed here in Tauranga and any initiative such as the proposed Cultural Centre should be supported.

Sure there will be challenges such as getting the 3WI (three iwi) on board, just like it did for the Tamaki Brothers in Rotorua who knew that you must have those who sit on the board and those who sit on the paepae balanced exactly if the business is to succeed.

This will be the same challenge for Mount Maunganui property investor Dr Randall Douglas and financial analyst Maia Ririnui who put their proposal before the council last week.

So, like my eight-year-old daughter tells me when I get things wrong (which is almost all the time) - you have to be able to "handle the jandal" when things go wrong.

Because one day we will all eventually end up in front of the big boss saying, "Sorry about that, Chief."

Tommy Kapai is a Tauranga author and writer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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