September 06, 2012
No Justice for Tame or Tuhoe
Opinion: The jailing of Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara for illegal possession of firearms raises the problem again of the judicial system being racist toward Maori.
The jury in the Urewera Four case was unable to convict them for participating in an organised criminal group so there was a lot of optimism that they would be given community service.
However, Judge Hansen sentenced them to two-and-a-half years' imprisonment, making his judgment totally outside his brief.
A jail sentence had seemed inconceivable but the judge gave the police and the Crown their pound of flesh.
Good old Judge Hansen. He did what he thought was best for this country – to keep everyone safe from Maori terrorists.
His decision made a mockery of the jury's decision not to prosecute them for organised crime.
It was as if the judge was saying: "The jury is wrong and I know what's best for these Maori troublemakers and they are going to jail come hell or high water – because jail is where terrorists belong."
The problem with the judge's reasoning is that it flies in the face of commonsense. Tame Iti a possible terrorist?
Give me a break!
In the United States they throw suspected terrorists into Guantanamo Bay and torture them, whereas here they end up on Ask your Uncles on Maori TV.
That's what Tame Iti, NZ's own Osama Bin Laden, has been doing as well as fundraising for diabetes, mediating between gangs and working in a Maori health service.
Over the past couple of years Tame has also represented Tuhoe as one of their negotiators with the Crown.
Now that hardly sounds like a man who was planning an armed revolution, does it?
But unfortunately Judge Hansen saw it differently, giving the police an excuse to validate their disgraceful actions against Tuhoe when they raided the township of Ruatoki searching for allies of Tame and terrorising the citizens.
It was a shameful act from the police, unprecedented in New Zealand Pakeha history.
The last township terrorised like that was Parihaka in 1881 which was another Maori settlement where the government gathered up its forces against Maori.
So for Maori, the jailing of Iti and Kemara and the refusal of the police to apologise to the people of Tuhoe is nothing more than racism rearing its ugly head yet again.
Certainly that's the view of of Tuhoe, Ngati Awa and Nga Puhi and politicians like Tariana Turia, Metiria Turei, Pita Sharples, Hone Harawira and Te Ururoa Flavell.
Even conservatives like Winston Peters, Rodney Hide and John Tamihere have called on the police to apologise to Tuhoe.
Hopefully the judge considering the appeal will take those opinions into account.