Harawira: I got it wrong on bin Laden

By Claire Trevett

Hone Harawira. Photo / Chris Loufte
Hone Harawira. Photo / Chris Loufte

Hone Harawira has apologised after facing a storm of criticism for farewelling Osama bin Laden as a man who "pursued independence for the rights, land and freedom of his people".

The MP issued a written apology yesterday afternoon, saying his mihi (acknowledgment) to bin Laden was seen by some as support for his actions.

He said that was a "mistake" and not what he intended.

"As Maori, we do not speak ill of someone who has died even if such a person has done bad things.

"Using terror for political reasons is never acceptable. I apologise for how I expressed myself."

Mr Harawira, who has started his own Mana Party, made his comments about bin Laden in te reo on Maori TV's Native Affairs and TVNZ's Te Karere programmes.

He bid farewell to bin Laden, who he said had "pursued independence for his people, his family and his tribe".

He also said bin Laden's family and people "mourn for the man who fought for the rights, the land and the freedom of his people".

Mr Harawira's apology followed an earlier press release about deposed Act leader Rodney Hide, which he ended with: "I ain't no great fan of Rodney Hide, and I ain't no great fan of Osama bin Laden either. But you can't help but note their passing."

Prime Minister John Key said Mr Harawira's comments were ridiculous.

"Osama bin Laden is the man who was responsible for the murder of thousands of people around the world."

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said Mr Harawira belittled the deaths of those who died in the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

"It's hyperbolic language that does not do justice to those who lost their lives on that dreadful day."

Other Maori MPs were unimpressed with Mr Harawira for citing Maori culture in his comments.

National MP Tau Henare said: "He says Maori culture allows us to farewell the dead. I can't remember one person from the Maori Battalion saying goodbye to Adolf Hitler."

- NZ Herald

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