PM remains neutral on raids

By Paula Oliver

Prime Minister Helen Clark is refusing to either voice support for the police or criticise their actions as she returns to Parliament surrounded by tight security after last week's dramatic raids on activists.

Watched by as many as four protection officers at one point yesterday - double the usual number - Helen Clark opted to play a straight bat to continued questioning about whether police were justified in carrying out the raids.

She said police would be judged on the outcome of what was going on, and the public could make that judgment after all charges had been laid and had passed through the court process.

"They acted on information they had which they believed would lead to charges," the Prime Minister said on Newstalk ZB.

Helen Clark flew out of the country on the day of the raids last week and yesterday marked her first interviews since her return from the Pacific Islands Forum in Tonga.

While she and Labour's Maori MPs have been withholding judgment on the police actions, the Maori Party yesterday stepped up its criticism when Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira launched what was described by United Future leader Peter Dunne as one of the most disgusting speeches he had heard in Parliament.

Mr Harawira used debate on a bill to amend whistleblower legislation as a platform to make strong arguments that Maori were being "terrorised".

"Are these threats to Maori serious? Hell, yes," Mr Harawira said.

"There is mounting frustration and anger right across the country by Maori genuinely aggrieved by the continued loss of lands, the denial of the Treaty, and now these raids, smashing into Maori homes and terrorising Maori communities," he said.

"Of course Maori are bloody angry. Why wouldn't they be?"

The police raids signalled that "the terrorism of the Maori community" had never ended and continued unabated, Mr Harawira said.

Mr Dunne called the speech inflammatory and said it was "embittered, divisive and downright irrelevant".

Further political controversy is likely today when the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill is expected to come up for debate in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, one of the men arrested in the raids was yesterday granted bail by the Auckland District Court.

Police had opposed granting bail to Rongomai Bailey, 28, who faces four charges under the Arms Act.

Sixteen others arrested in the raids remain in custody.

The repeal of the country's sedition offence laws also generated talk about the raids in Parliament yesterday.

But New Zealand First opposed the repeal and asked that the debate be halted until the outcome of the police investigation that triggered the raids.

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