A hikoi to protest against the Bay of Plenty police raids arrives at Parliament this morning to demand answers from MPs about the raids and use of terrorism laws - but the Government yesterday said it was not a Maori or Tuhoe issue.
Hikoi spokesman Taiarahia Black said the group of about 60 mainly Tuhoe people hoped to meet senior MPs to demand answers about the use of the Terrorism Suppression Act and police raids in the Ruatoki Valley when the valley was blockaded and cars searched.
"It is being described as an "attack" on the community and as we found out the terrorism laws did not in any way support what happened. We want to let the MPs see first hand how the community is feeling, and express the hurt, the frustration, and the incomprehension as to why it happened."
However, when questioned by Maori MP Pita Sharples in Parliament yesterday, minister Pete Hodgson said the Government did not draw a direct connection between the raids and Tuhoe or Maoridom.
"It is true that the alleged training camps were in the Tuhoe rohe, but had they been in the Southern Alps we would not have drawn a link with Ngai Tahu. The fact of the matter is that three of the 16 people are Tuhoe and 13 are not. Nearly every member of Tuhoe is not involved in this."
Helen Clark has said she would not meet the hikoi, and a spokesperson for Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia said he hadn't made a decision.
The hikoi will arrive the day after Parliament voted 108 votes to 13 to pass a law which further strengthens the terrorism laws, despite calls from the Maori Party and Green Party to halt it while the Law Commission reviews the Terrorism Suppression Act.
The amendment bill creates a new offence of a "terrorist act" which is punishable by a life sentence, and allows the Prime Minister, rather than the High Court, to designate groups or individuals as terrorists.
It also refines procedures for the designation of terrorists by rolling over the expiration date of the current list and providing for future groups the United Nations listed as terrorist organisations to be automatically included in New Zealand law.
The Green Party, the Maori Party, Act and Taito Phillip Field opposed the law, but Labour and National said it was necessary if New Zealand was to meet its international obligations.
National's Murray McCully said the events of the past three weeks were irrelevant to the provisions in the bill - which were to meet international obligations - and should not stop it passing.
However he also said events of the past few weeks had at best caused serious doubts, and at worst some loss of confidence, in the institutions and processes which protected the country from serious disorder.
"On the strength of what we have seen in the media there is room for doubt about the actions of the police, their legal advisers, the Crown Law Office, the Government that introduced the 2002 legislation and their advisers and of course this Parliament," he said.
Mr McCully said he was "handicapped by a serious lack of facts" when trying to understand where the shortcomings might be. The fact that the police failed to meet the test raised serious questions.
"It was a big call to invoke the Terrorism Act rather than to simply proceed under the Crimes Act and the Arms Act," he said.
Mr McCully said the fact that the police action fell at the first hurdle invited close inspection of the competence of the decision-making process.
"For my own part, I would be extremely concerned if it emerges that dangerous individuals who should have faced serious charges under the Crimes Act will instead face a slap across the wrist with a wet Arms Act bus ticket, because of a misguided police excursion under terrorism legislation that was passed for an entirely different purpose."
Act leader Rodney Hide described it as "abhorrent" and said it put too much power in the hands of the Prime Minister.
"It is a fascist law that puts power in the hands of politicians to decide who should be guilty and who should be free."
Helen Clark said work was under way on the terms of reference for a Law Commission review of terrorism legislation after the Solicitor-General's decision not to allow police to prosecute 12 of those arrested in the police raids under the act.