7 Feb 2011

Harawira suspended from Maori Party caucus

10:27 pm on 7 February 2011

The Maori Party co-leadership has suspended Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira from the parliamentary caucus, saying he can no longer be trusted.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia said Mr Harawira has failed to show the restraint and discipline expected of a caucus member, and the caucus now has no faith or confidence in him.

The co-leaders said the suspension is a result of Mr Harawira's behaviour over the past five years and will remain in force until further notice.

They said they have always respected the right and made provision for caucus colleagues to speak out on issues which their constituency presents. However, they believe differences of opinion should be addressed within the caucus, and no political movement divided within itself can survive.

Mr Harawira faces a disciplinary committee on Wednesday night over comments made in a newspaper article criticising his party over its close relationship with the National Government. The complaint was laid by party whip Te Ururoa Flavell.

Events at Waitangi to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi at the weekend have increased tensions, with Mr Harawira giving a 'state of the nation' speech an hour before Dr Sharples was due to deliver his.

At the traditional Treaty forum on Saturday night, Mr Harawira said leaders who lost the courage and vigour to fight for the founding kaupapa (principles) of the Maori Party should be replaced.

Mr Harawira told the forum that, in an election year, the Maori Party should be talking to all other parties to get the best deal possible for Maori, and suggested an alliance with the Greens. However, he said the Maori Party was talking only to National.

Prime Minister John Key said Mr Harawira's suspension reflects underlying tensions within the Maori Party caucus.

Mr Key said the co-leaders have become frustrated with Mr Harawira's actions, which are more akin to an MP in Opposition than in a support arrangement with the Government, and the co-leaders' actions are a matter for the Maori Party.

Harawira 'hugely disappointed'

Mr Harawira says he is hugely disappointed at the decision to suspend him from the Maori Party caucus indefinitely.

In a statement on Monday evening, the MP said it shows a huge disrespect for the kaupapa on which the party was founded and for the people of Te Tai Tokerau who have given their all for the Maori Party.

Mr Harawira said the decision also shows a complete disregard for the complaint process that Dr Sharples and Mrs Turia were party to and believed it is a "clumsy and heavy-handed attempt" to influence the outcome of the disciplinary committee meeting on Wednesday.

The MP's mother, Titewhai Harawira, says the co-leaders are not following the principles on which the Maori Party was founded.

Mrs Harawira, a Nga Puhi kuia, told Checkpoint on Monday she is disgusted that Dr Sharples is pretending to be working with kaupapa Maori, but is not.

She said Dr Sharples needs to stay with the tikanga (procedures) of the Maori Party constitution which says if there are any problems he should go back to the kaumatua and kuia (elders).

Mrs Harawira said Dr Sharples has actively prevented the kaumatua and kuia from meeting to discuss the issue, yet he had ample opportunity at Waitangi commemorations to talk with them.

Electorate 'angered' by move

Sources close to the Tai Tokerau electorate committee say they first heard about Mr Harawira's suspension through the media and there is considerable anger at the move.

They said it also confirms suspicions that the Maori Party leaders have wanted to ditch Mr Harawira all along and that the complaints process has been a farce.

The electorate committee said it would not publicly comment on Monday.