Te Karere Ipurangi
Fiji Coup Supplement
May 23, 2000
FIJI - Maori Comment in the "Dominion" newspaper, Wellington, NZ.
Don't be inspired by coup, Samuels advises Maori
By OSKAR ALLEY and JONATHON MILNE
MAORI AFFAIRS Minister Dover Samuels is urging disaffected Maori to not be influenced by Fiji coup leader George Speight's gun-barrel attempts to gain indigenous rights.
It is understood some Maori activists and sovereignty movements are using the coup to encourage a more militant attitude among disgruntled Maori. Activist Tame Iti plans to head to Fiji.
Some Taranaki Maori groups are openly sympathising with Speight's actions, warning that the shooting of Waitara man Steven Wallace and Taranaki land leases have wound up racial tension to Fijian levels.
Ngati Te Whiti hapu chairman Peter Love said Speight's actions were "a manifestation of the most potent grievance" that Fiji had inherited from colonial days.
Taranaki-based Nga Ruahine has considered occupying another block of farmland in protest at land leases that they compare to the sugar plantation leases imposed on indigenous Fijian land owners.
Ngati Tamaahuroa me Titahi hapu spokesman Hori Manuirirangi said the 140 hectares (337 acres) being sold at Oeo was part of the hapu's last block of land, "and we will die on our land if we have to".
Other Maori activists claim that fewer than 200 armed activists could disable New Zealand's agricultural industry and scare off tourists, effectively crippling the economy.
Ngati Ruanui member Matin Edwards said: "Hopefully I won't want to have to do anything heroic myself, because I've got two little kids to look after, but at the same time it can't be pushed under the carpet."
Labour MP Tariana Turia has continued to decline to comment on the Fiji situation. It is understood she has been told not to make any comment, given the Government's staunch condemnation of Speight's actions.
But Mr Samuels emphasised that Speight was a thug who did not deserve any mana from Maori dedicated to resolving disputes over indigenous rights.
He would not say if he was aware that some disaffected Maori were supporting the Fiji action but said he would not rule it out.
"There is a minority that would probably come out and support it and would contribute to that type of violence. You'd be burying your head in the sand if you didn't think so," Mr Samuels said.
"There have been some jokes about it, that it wouldn't need 12 gunmen it would only need six. People may joke about it, but it is a very, very serious situation in Fiji."
Maori had to be careful to not let the indigenous rights issues cloud their judgment of Speight's actions, Mr Samuels said.
It is understood some Maori activists have contacted Maori MPs seeking their views on the parallels between New Zealand and Fijian indigenous rights. Mr Samuels said all Maori MPs had to reject the Fiji coup.
"If any Maori MP supports what Speight is doing in Fiji, to take over a duly elected Government, then they should not be members of the House of Representatives," he said.
Mr Samuels stance found support from Alliance MP Sandra Lee, who said the removal of the elected Fijian Government was unacceptable.
"Anyone who thinks this is a people's freedom fight, especially Maori people, I would urge them to remember that elected representatives have been removed from office at the barrel of the gun.
"If Maori become advocates of that lawlessness, then we will have lost our way politically."
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