Harawira wants to stay with party

By Derek Cheng

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira addresses media this morning. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Maori Party MP Hone Harawira addresses media this morning. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Hone Harawira is remaining defiant and has criticised the "public relations disaster" for the Maori Party, but wants to stay with the party and stand for it at the next election.

Mr Harawira was suspended from the parliamentary wing of the Maori Party yesterday after an ongoing dispute that was triggered by a newspaper column he wrote criticising the party. Party whip Te Ururoa Flavell filed a formal complaint with the party's National Council, which will be considered tomorrow and the party will likely decide on a course of action - which could be expulsion - by the end of the week.

The complaint accused Mr Harawira of deliberately bringing the party into disrepute by constantly undermining the party, its MPs and the leadership through statements to the media.

At a media conference this morning, Mr Harawira said he had said and done things he shouldn't have, and he had trouble with authority, but he had been selected as the Te Tai Tokerau candidate for the election, and he intended to do that.

Click here for Hone Harawira's full statement.

The MP for Te Tai Tokerau strongly defended his electorate committee for trying to resolve the issue, but said they had been "rebuffed at every point".

The process was a shambles and the whole episode should be set aside, the complaint dropped, the suspension lifted, and the MPs lock themselves away in a marae until the issue was resolved.

"Then we could get on with the business of winning all seven Maori seats," Mr Harawira said.

He said he had not been invited to the disciplinary hearing tomorrow, but if he received an invitation he would consider it.

When asked if he would accept the result of the disciplinary process, he said he would be happier to accept a kaupapa Maori process, and re-stated his wish to have the issue resolved on the marae and away from the media.

He said the party had spent $25,000 on constitutional lawyer Mai Chen to advise on the proper disciplinary process, but that was in line with kaupapa Maori.

But Mr Harawira said the co-leaders had suspended him without telling the national council, president and local electorate committee.

"The process of kaupapa Maori has been ignored."

Communication across the party had broken down, he said.

Mr Harawira took some responsibility for the PR disaster over the past few weeks, but he did not resile from his newspaper column that triggered the complaint.

"I regret being asleep at midnight when I was contacted ... if I was able to discuss it before it went to the media, we could have parked up somewhere and sorted it out.

"I sincerely say I can't regret anything I said in that article," he said.

"Those are exactly the things I'm hearing from Maori Party member in Te Tai Tokerau ... I've raised every one of those issues in caucus ... none of that is new."

He said the party should answer to its 25,000 members.

"We should be guided by the hopes and aspirations of the 25,000, rather than the individual differences of two or three people."

The outspoken MP, criticised by the party for speaking out against the party's positions, said he would continue to raise issues "close to our people's hearts".

"I cannot sit back and say nothing while there are issues that are that important. ... We have been swallowed by the National juggernaut.

"We are no longer seen as the active defenders of the faith," but "meek" coalition partners.

"Our people are crying out to us to reconnect with them."

Mr Harawira rejected leaving the party and standing as an independent, because the party membership wanted these issues debated within the party.

"I haven't even contemplated a by-election."

He dismissed as "nasty and untrue" reported comments from co-leader Tariana Turia that he wanted to position inside cabinet.

He said he had wanted a role in Maori broadcasting, but he didn't need to be a minister or associate minister to do that.

The coalition deal might never have happened if the party had been told of National's agenda, he said.

"The Maori Party was not advised that there was going to be an increase in GST, so when the GST rise came up, we were ambushed, in my view.

"If we had been told about it, there may not have been a coalition."

Tensions between Mr Harawira and co-leader Pita Sharples heightened at Waitangi when Mr Harawira gave a "state of the Maori nation" speech an hour before Dr Sharples' own speech.

Dr Sharples was accused of looking for a replacement at Waitangi to potentially stand against Mr Hawawira in the Te Tai Tokerau seat this year, but he this morning strongly denied this.

Mr Flavell said this morning the suspension was "inevitable I suppose under the circumstances".

He had no regrets about lodging the complaint.

"Not at all, that was the point of it, to bring it all to a head and at least have the discussion, so it's achieved that goal."

Mr Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau electorate had a meeting last night and re-affirmed its support for Mr Harawira.

"We were absolutely gutted with what has occurred... I don't understand why the caucus made the decision at all," electorate chairwoman Lisa McNab told Radio NZ.

It made no sense to take the action two days out from the disciplinary hearing and it was "rubbish" the suspension wouldn't influence the process, she said.

The electorate had not been separately informed about the suspension and she questioned whether a fair process was being used.

Dr Sharples said Mr Harawira could take his seat in Parliament but he could not speak on behalf of the party.

"He can't speak unless he's called upon by the Speaker, but he can't speak on Caucus business."

- With NZPA

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