14 Nov 2009

Maori Party co-leaders say Harawira should go

12:33 pm on 14 November 2009

Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples have signalled there is no future for controversial MP Hone Harawira in the party, saying they want to move on.

The party is considering cutting Mr Harawira adrift and a suggestion that he become an independent MP was made on Thursday at meeting in his Te Tai Tokerau electorate in Kaitaia.

Mr Harawira has been under pressure for skipping a day of official business while in Europe to visit Paris with his wife, and a tirade in a subsequent email exchange with former Waitangi Tribunal director Buddy Mikaere last week.

He has since made a qualified apology for the racially-charged and explicit language he used about white people in the email.

Mr Harawira is resisting the move to become an independent MP, calling it a "silly" idea.

But at a news conference at Parliament on Friday, Mrs Turia and Dr Sharples made it clear they backed the Maori Party president's call for Mr Harawira to cut his ties.

MP 'difficult to control'

Mrs Turia says Mr Harawira has been difficult to control and does not believe he is likely to change. She says the MP has not adhered to the party's tikanga or kaupapa (traditions and practices), and not just in recent days.

Dr Sharples says Mr Harawira has already placed himself outside of the Maori Party and its caucus and at times acts like an independent MP.

Dr Sharples says the party has difficulty controlling Mr Harawira, who feels he is only answerable to the people of his electorate and not the party.

"If people in our party in our caucus feel that they're not responsible to the rules and us and our decision-making, then it makes it very difficult to work. It's very, very simple."

Dr Sharples says the Maori Party needs to follow procedures and have a reputation for consistency, otherwise no-one will want to deal with it.

Mrs Turia says the Maori Party wants to move on to more important matters, such as the Foreshore and Seabed Act and the Emissions Trading Scheme.

The party will now hold a series of hui, or meetings, throughout New Zealand to consider Mr Harawira's future if he does not leave voluntarily.

Earlier, party president Whatarangi Winiata said he believed there is still a place for Mr Harawira, providing that he does not destroy the party in the process.

Professor Winiata says the party requires its MPs to work as a team, and Mr Harawira clearly has difficulty with that. He says party membership brings with it discipline and obligations, which Mr Harawira can free himself of if he resigns.

The Maori Party will take two weeks to make a final decision over Mr Harawira's fate.

Party accused of constitution breach

The proposal that Mr Harawira stand as an independent MP breaches the party's constitution, according to the chairperson of his electorate committee.

Rahuia Kapa is shocked at the suggestion that Mr Harawira become an independent MP and told Morning Report this falls foul of the Maori Party's constitution.

"Due process did not occur; due diligence did not occur. In the constitution it states that consultation must occur with the executive of the respective electorates. And in this case, Te Tai Tokerau, I was not consulted in any shape or form."

Ms Kapa says the Maori Party's decision to ask Mr Harawira to consider leaving the party came out of the blue. She says discussion will take place in the electorate, but is adamant that Mr Harawira must remain as a Maori Party MP.

The chairman of a tribal council that represents 23 marae in Northland says Mr Harawira should stay in the Maori Party.

Haami Piripi, of Te Runanga o Te Rarawa, believes ejecting Mr Harawira would be detrimental to the Maori Party and Northland Maori.

"We need to be part of the framework of government. I'm absolutely certain that were he to become an independent MP, he would have no problem getting back into Parliament.

"And I think that would have dire implications really for the party and its future ability to provide a national solution."

PM wouldn't work with independent Harawira

Prime Minister John Key says he supports the Maori Party's stance and on Friday praised it for showing leadership.

He says it shows the party does not think Mr Harawira's statements reflect its philosophy.

Mr Key also says he would not work with Mr Harawira if he became an independent MP.

Mr Key says if Mr Harawira won a seat as an independent he would effectively become an opposition MP.

But he says Mr Harawira is a free spirit and it is unlikely he would restrict his comments to criticising the Government.