Monday, October 17, 2011

Māori representation and tino rangatiratanga

Phew! I have finished 2 essays and 1 research project over recent days and one of the best aspects of writing essays is it really gets you thinking.

One essay I entitled “The Mana Party and self determination: a journey and a destination.” As you might expect I am quite keen on The Mana Party and I wanted to assess how the party moves tino rangatiratanga forward.

To do that required a bit of analysis of Effective Māori Representation (EMR) and whether the Māori Party had achieved that, because as we know the Mana Party has formed out of that party. This post offers my view of that area.

Supporters of The Māori Party believe that being in Government and therefore in power, is the best way to achieve incremental gains for Māori self determination and this view ties into EMR, described by the Electoral System report (1986) as, “effective and fair representation of Māori and Māori views”, and represented within the MMP system by the number of Māori MP’s, their political leverage in terms of advancing Māori self determination, the cultural improvements to parliament itself by having more Māori MP’s, and the actual ability of Māori MP’s to influence and lead improvements for Māori.

There can be no doubt that the Māori Party have sat at the table but the key term within EMR is representation and when we look at the flagship policy of the Māori Party, namely repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act we can see that they did not represent the views of the vast majority of Māori who submitted in opposition to their solution, the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act (2011).

Foucault analysed the relationships between power, rights and truth and how the discourses generated hide the true intention of the dominant partner in the relationship, which is to reinforce the dominance. Foucault’s idea of a ‘right’ is that it is given by those in power seemingly as a positive development but actually reaffirming the power dynamic of the dominant relationship. (Foucault, 1976)

The National Government has bestowed a ‘right’ to Māori by repealing the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and on one level it was fulfilling its obligation to its coalition partner the Māori Party, but at a deeper level it was reinforcing authority and the ability to bestow ‘rights’. The idea of a truth from Foucault is a discourse from those with power that supports the normalising of the dominance, which is similar to Gramsci’s idea of ‘common sense’ where the discourse is designed to normalise the dominant relationship and behaviours.

The Māori Party have created a discourse where their ‘truth’ is that they have achieved the goal of repeal and that is what they promised. Certainly the repeal was the impetus for the formation of the Māori Party and it has been completed, but the gains for Māori self determination are non-evident. The National Government have described the repeal and new Act as “recognising the rights of all New Zealanders in the common marine and coastal area” and this view is not consistent with tino rangatiratanga.

The Māori Party discourses have allied with the National Government discourses and their truths are presented as ‘common sense’ and this legitimises the declared truths supporting the continued dominance. The repeal and new Act have reinforced the unequal power relationship between Māori and the Government and offers no advances to Māori self determination.

The Mana Party and its supporters reject these discourses and oppose the power relationship where the Government is dominant. Gramsci’s analysis suggests that the way to overcome the common sense discourses from the dominators is to develop counter discourses that take away the dominant groups spiritual prestige and power. The Mana Party dismisses the hegemony of the dominating group and instead forms part of a counter hegemony where the right of Māori to self determination is accepted as normal.

Obviously the essay has a bit more to it than this précis, for instance I looked at the aspect of silencing.

The attempted silencing of Hone Harawira by the Māori Party suggests aspects of Freire’s ‘culture of silence’ concept where a dependent/object society (Māori) is silent in the face of the metropolis/director society (NZ) and often echos the dominant society, because as Freire notes, “The silence of the object society in relation to the director society is repeated in the relationships within the object society itself. Its power elites, silent in the face of the metropolis, silence there own people in turn.”

So my conclusion was clear, EMR has not occurred from the Māori Party, which is why the Mana Party has formed. There have been some discussions recently on The Mana party and what it is all about and my final word is dedicated to that.

The Mana Party has momentum, and the potential to advance Māori self determination because everything within The Mana Party endorses tino rangatiratanga and it is a perquisite for membership. You cannot support The Mana Party and oppose tino rangatiratanga and when equality is welded to social justice issues, which negatively affect many Māori, you have a potent force for change. This force for change is inclusive and The Mana Party offers representation to Māori and non-Māori.

I’ll post about my other essay soon because it relates to this essay and was all about Māori and retirement and the inequity facing Māori throughout their working life, as they get close to retirement and after retirement. This inequity manifests in income, employment, and longevity and offers good evidence for lowering the retirement age for Māori to create equality.


bsprout said...

My penny's worth on this subject from an older post. Maori representation is not about systems and numbers, but about respect and real communication. It is also about a commitment to accept they can be more than one path to achieve the same outcome.

I am still hopeful the the Green Party can be seen as a a party where the aspirations of Maori can be furthered in a mutually respectful and supportive environment. I'd be interested in your thoughts around potential barriers for that to occur.

Marty Mars said...

Kia ora bsprout,

I've added a comment to your great post, you raise some excellent issues.

I'm going to put some thought into this question of where Mana and the Greens interact because I do think they are after different constituents. I am absolutely depending upon both Mana and the Greens being strong and working very closely together. It is our best hope.