14 Nov 2019

Rua Kēnana descendants support proposed changes to pardon bill

12:53 pm on 14 November 2019

Descendants of Rua Kēnana are backing proposed changes to the pardon bill that would make the Crown take greater responsibility for the unlawful conviction of their ancestor.

Rua Kēnana (circa 1907 - photographer and location unknown)

Rua Kēnana Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library / https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22692037

The Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill, which recognises and apologises for the pain the wrongful conviction of Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana has caused, unanimously passed its first reading in September.

Tears flowed as descendants told the Māori Affairs select committee of the lasting hurt the incident at Maungapōhatu had caused their community, which left two of their people, including Rua Kēnana's son Toko, dead.

Atamira Tumarae-Nuku, from Maungapōhatu, was overcome with emotion as she spoke in support of the bill.

"This pire and this process here today ... helps ease the pain of the past, and it also ensures that our children after us do not carry the same burden as us."

Waikato University professor of law Alexander Gillespie told the select committee the bill should recognise there was no tangi for the two young men who died, and no inquest.

He also wanted an addition to the bill to reflect the fact Rua Kēnana was charged with "moral resistance", a charge that does not exist, but was settled upon because two members of the jury were against a full acquittal. It then became the basis for Rua Kēnana's conviction and imprisonment for sedition.

"The apology and the pardon for what has happened is correct, but in my opinion [section] 8C should read that the Crown also apologises for the miscarriage of justice, in terms of both the judicial system and the police actions that were the catalyst for the incident."

Ngā Toenga o Ngā Tamariki a Iharaira legal counsel Jason Pou agreed that the charges should never have been laid, because it was unlawful to make an arrest on that day.

Some of the uri o Rua Kēnana me Hāhi Iharaira outside Parliament following the first reading of the Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill passing.

Some of the uri o Rua Kēnana me Hāhi Iharaira outside Parliament following the first reading of the Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill passing. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

"There is a need for the Crown to go back to Maungapōhatu and apologise for the stains that were left there, and those stains were in blood, I would suggest also a need for the police to go up there and apologise for what occurred."

Nika Rua, who is the great great grandson of Rua Kēnana, said the whānau supported the proposed changes to the bill as put forward by Mr Gillespie to reiterate Rua Kēnana's innocence.

"Giving more clarification and a bit more understanding and emphasis on that has been quite a significant step forward in realising and acknowledging what happened to our ancestor."

However, Nika Rua said the whānau would only support the new recommendations if they did not hold back progress of the bill.

The governor-general is set to head to Maungapōhatu on 13 December to give the apology, subject to everything being completed in the House on time.

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