Human rights adviser retracts 'boiled head' apology to critic

By Yvonne Tahana

David Rankin. Photo /NZ Herald
David Rankin. Photo /NZ Herald


Human Rights Commission adviser Marama Davidson has withdrawn an apology she made to David Rankin over swearing at him in te reo.

Mr Rankin, of Ngapuhi, called the move farcical and said the adviser should lose her job.

Ms Davidson had criticised Mr Rankin's slamming of the foreshore and seabed protest hikoi which he said was an embarrassment to Maori.

He complained to the commission that Ms Davidson had allegedly been using Facebook during work hours to insult him and took exception to one posting on tangatawhenua.com where she said: "David Rankin - pokokohua! I can't wait to tell him to his face."

The "pokokohua" insult conjures up images of a head being chopped off and boiled - it's one of the worst insults a person can level at another in Maori as it puts the person on the same level as cooked food. On Friday, Ms Davidson apologised in writing to Mr Rankin. At that point the commission said its investigation was complete and that appropriate disciplinary action had been taken, although it declined to say what that amounted too.

A day after Ms Davidson's apology, she allegedly rescinded it in a private email to Mr Rankin, who claims leadership of the Matarahurahu subtribe.

The email stated the issue between them was "confidential" and no media should be involved. It was from a "home computer in my own time and involving no one else except you and I", she wrote.

"In my personal capacity, I completely withdraw in full the apology that i have made to you in public."

Ms Davidson did not return Herald calls. However, the email said Mr Rankin had no right to call himself a Ngapuhi leader or activist.

"You did not have to agree with the hikoi, but you sought a media platform to raise your own profile and have insulted everyone who was involved.

"You are not worthy of an apology from me because of the personal insults you have directed at people I admire and respect."

Mr Rankin said he was happy with Friday's apology and that Ms Davidson had not lost her job. Now, he believes she has no right to be educating people on human rights if she can't respect his right to freedom of speech.

In a letter to chief commissioner Rosslyn Noonan, Mr Rankin said the apology was designed just to make sure Ms Davidson kept her job.

"As long as Ms Davidson remains at the Human Rights Commission in any capacity, this can only be interpreted as tacit endorsement of her behaviour and actions by yourself."

The commission said it was investigating a further complaint from Mr Rankin.

- NZ Herald

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