January 04, 2021
Māori strategy needed for prison peace
One of the kaumatua who helped negotiate an end to the riot at Waikeria Prison says it highlights the urgency of implementing the Hōkai Rangi Māori strategy throughout the prison system.
Waikato Tainui negotiator Rāhui Papa along with kuia Kataraina Hodge had three meetings with the 16 inmates before they agreed to leave their position on the roof of the 110-year-old top prison building.
“When they were making their descent the smoke was still billowing out of parts of the building. They had made their stand and it was time to come down,” he says.
“They were talking about living conditions and being treated like humans rather than animals in a stockyard.”
Mr Papa says a review of the incident should focus on the principles of Hōkai Rangi and the need to provide the highest standard of care to look after the welfare of both inmates and staff.
The prison does run a programme Te Tirohanga in a Māori unit, but it is not available for remand prisoners or those in the top prison.
Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi, who accompanied the inmates as they surrendered, says Sunday’s resolution was a Māori solution to a Pākeha problem.
He says the inmates had highlighted real issues about the state of the prison and the way those in it were being treated.
It was important now to not only fast track construction of a replacement unit but to address long standing issues of the over-representation of Māori in the prison population.
Mr Waititi says identifying the rioters as gang members doesn’t change the fact they have whakapapa which needs to be respected and supported.
“Gangs are marginalised by society. We did not have gangs before colonisation, before the 1950s,” he says.
“These people are marginalised and disenfranchised from their culture, their language, their whānau and their land.”
He says the Māori Party will continue to put pressure on the Government to fix the system.
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