By AUDREY YOUNG
Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen told Parliament yesterday that the Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi took precedence over the English version.
Dr Cullen made his comments during a concerted attack by Labour in Parliament against National leader Bill English accusing him of trying to frighten people about the treaty for electoral gain.
Mr English's campaign depended on "misrepresenting the treaty", Dr Cullen said.
"He only ever seems to know there is an English version of the treaty. There is a Maori version which is very, very different in clauses one and two.
"All his interpretation is based on the English version."
Dr Cullen urged Mr English to read legal opinions from New Zealand and Britain.
"The Maori version takes precedence in terms of interpretation," he said to calls from National.
"Oh yes it does. That is what the Privy Council has said because it was Maori who were giving away rights and therefore their understanding of what was being given away must take precedence over Governor Hobson's understanding of what he was demanding."
Mr English could not say therefore that Maori totally surrendered sovereignty.
"That is not what the treaty says in article one. Sovereignty depends on the Crown assuming it some months, and unchallenged exercise of that sovereignty since."
Dr Cullen said it was also untrue for Mr English to claim that under article two, Maori simply had protected their lands, fisheries and Forests.
"That is the English text. If he reads further and understands the Maori text, a great deal more than that is protected by the Treaty of Waitangi. And that protection duty is owned by the Crown as signatory to the treaty."
Before Mr English had become National leader, he had sought "young, brown voters".
"Now he is sitting there quivering with 26 pretenders to the leadership, it's the middle-aged, middle-class Pakeha are the only people he is interested in."
Dr Cullen said Mr English's speech this week on the so-called fourth unwritten treaty article had been designed to frighten people.
Mr English claimed that the "article" - a verbal guarantee of religious freedom given by Governor Hobson - was a "Trojan Horse" which could given state protection to Maori spiritual beliefs. He wrongly claimed that there was a claim under "article four" before the Waitangi Tribunal.
National's Maori affairs spokeswoman, Georgina te Heuheu, was muted in her support of Mr English.
Asked if he was fuelling public anxiety over the treaty, she said: "I honestly don't know.
"I certainly believe it is our job as leaders to try and add clarity of thought and discussion to issues that are already complicated like this one and around which people are anxious, possibly."
Asked if Mr English had clarified or complicated the issue, she said: "Only the public can make a judgment on that."
The Treaty of Waitangi
An English-language extract
Article one: The chiefs cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of sovereignty.
Article two: The Queen confirms and guarantees to the chiefs the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests and fisheries and other properties ... but the Chiefs of the United Tribes and the individual chiefs yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right to pre-emption over such lands.
Article three: In consideration thereof, the Queen extends to the natives of New Zealand her royal protection and imparts to them all the rights and privileges of British subjects.
Translation of Maori version by Professor Sir Hugh Kawharu
Article one: The Chiefs of the Confederation and all the chiefs who have not joined that Confederation give absolutely to the Queen of England for ever the complete government over their land.
Article two: The Queen of England agrees to protect the Chiefs, the Subtribes and all the people of New Zealand in the unqualified exercise of their chieftainship over their lands, villages and all their treasures. But on the other hand the Chiefs of the Confederation and all the Chiefs will sell land to the Queen at a price agreed to by the person owning it and by the person buying it (the latter being) appointed by the Queen as her purchase agent.
Article three: For this agreed arrangement there concerning the Government of the Queen, the Queen of England will protect all the ordinary people of New Zealand (ie, the Maori) and will give them the same rights and duties of citizenship as the people of England.
By AUDREY YOUNG