Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Maori Party co-leaders backed Helen Clark's bid to be United Nations Secretary General

Both Maori Party co-leaders expressed support for Helen Clark's bid for the United Nation's top job in April - support that was dropped following a subsequent party meeting. Photo supplied.
Both Maori Party co-leaders expressed support for Helen Clark's bid for the United Nation's top job in April - support that was dropped following a subsequent party meeting. Photo supplied.

The Maori Party's opposition to Helen Clark's bid for the United Nation's top job is a dramatic about-turn from earlier comments by its co-leaders.

The change followed a party meeting when most of its members decided to not support Clark's application to be UN Secretary General.

That stance has caused controversy this week after co-leader Marama Fox outlined the reasons why Clark was, in the party's view, unsuitable for the job.

But in April, Fox told Radio Waatea that Clark was a good choice for the role, despite her "huge mistakes" while in Government.

"Having been removed from the sort of burden sometimes of prime ministership, and party political policy, she is able to advocate for the rights of people - for the human rights of human existence," Fox said.

"And so I have seen a change, as you will, in the way that she has conducted herself in the UN. And I actually support her as someone who would be credible at the top job."

Fox's co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell also expressed support for Clark in April, telling Te Kaea: "I thank her and thank the government who have nominated her for this position, and rightfully so. I think it is a good thing her name is in the hat."

Yesterday, Flavell told the Herald that the issue of support for Clark was a major one for the Maori Party, and debated at a national meeting in recent months.

"It was given a fair bit of discussion at one of our national meetings and our position was really clear, and it's not to put a dampener on the application because obviously she has some good skills.

"But until such time as there was an acknowledgement of what happened, and an apology, then we basically can't endorse her."

That was because of her oversights of issues such as the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the Tuhoe raids, and the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (Undrip), which was not signed until National came into Government.

Maori Party founder Dame Tariana Turia yesterday came out in support of Clark's bid.
Turia, who walked out of the Labour Party over the Foreshore and Seabed Act, said Clark had made a mistake on that issue.

"But she was an outstanding politician. I think she did some really good things and she made a fatal mistake over the foreshore and seabed. But apart from that, I had a lot of time for Helen."

She would not criticise Fox and Flavell, saying they were taking the position their party had told them to take and if she was still co-leader she would have to do the same thing.

"This is not about playing politics. It is about the party going back to its followers and the followers directing them. I don't have to follow that line anymore and I'm not prepared to. What I'm doing is expressing a personal viewpoint and I think [Clark] would do a good job."

Labour MP Kelvin Davis says the Maori Party not supporting Clark's bid has nothing to do with the former prime minister and is "political hysteria".

"It's just to make a political point. This is nothing to do with Helen Clark, this is everything to do with the Maori Party trying to be relevant," said Davis, MP for Te Tai Tokerau.

The decision to not support Clark has also been condemned by former Maori Affairs Minister Dover Samuels as "payback", and "treacherous in the extreme" by NZ First leader Winston Peters.

Clark, a former Labour Prime Minister of nine-years standing, and currently head of the UN Development Programme, is one of 12 candidates seeking the position.

She has the support of almost all the Parliament, especially the exuberant support of Prime Minister John Key.

The Security Council will hold a second secret ballot early Saturday morning, New Zealand time. Clark finished sixth in the last ballot.

Clark said that New Zealand fully supported the negotiations on the Declaration.

"We asked for more time to improve the Declaration to make it fully capable of implementation in all countries.

"At that time we were concerned that some aspects of the Undrip cut across New Zealand's constitutional framework and legal system.

"New Zealand was however at the forefront of implementing most of the rights in the Undrip.

"I was pleased to see that the Government was able to support the Declaration in 2010."

- NZ Herald

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