Greetings to all - for us in Parliament, the new political year has started. A trip to Ratana Pa for the anniversary of the birth of prophet Wiremu Potiki Ratana marked our first official engagement for the year. Soon this will be followed up by events at Waitangi.
I was privileged to lead an indigenous group of Ainu people from Japan on to Ratana last week. These people have a historical relationship with the Ratana movement and all the manuhiri and mana whenua on the marae that day got to hear about that. Tahupotiki Ratana went to Japan and met an Ainu gentleman by the name of Bishop Yuji Nakata. Accounts tell that it was Nakata who opened the temple at Ratana.
Representatives from all the political parties arrived at Ratana attempting to influence the Ratana vote. You might wonder - what is the benefit for the people, in the spectacle of the politicians going to Ratana? For many of us it is an opportunity to acknowledge the legacy of Ratana through the celebration of his birthday. Is there anything else to be gained? I'm not sure on that one.
Spokespeople for the Ratana church take the time around the anniversary to express their views - those who come to visit are seen to listen to those views but I am yet to see a consequential exchange of ideas. It's also like this at Waitangi - it is an important day for our country but if you are a Member of Parliament, often it's a case of sitting and take a verbal hammering from some.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi has long been debated at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. I cannot stand, however, the belittling of people and their families in the name of "debate". There is a call to "honour the Treaty" and that is what we of the Maori Party are still attempting to address. Partly for this reason, a Constitutional Working Panel has been convened - it is through formalising the status of the Treaty in our national constitution that we will be clear about its place in providing a foundation for our nationhood.
If we are to consider the perceived problems that have come to the fore in relation to the Treaty, I am convinced that the real issue stems from the translation of the words. One version "Te Tiriti" is written in Maori and the other "The Treaty" in English; the interpretations do not match. The version written in English satisfied the colonial settlers of the time and likewise the Maori version suited what was wanted by tangata whenua. As we try to determine which is the correct version, there arises the big problem.
According to international law, it is the Treaty written in the language of the indigenous people that takes precedence. Has the Maori version been endorsed though? No. So should we celebrate the Treaty? Of course.
This should be a day when all New Zealanders get together to celebrate the land and cultures we are sharing. In terms of honouring the Treaty though, I find no reason to celebrate just yet. We simply have yet to see the fruits of all our labour.
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