13 Nov 2009

Maori Party may cut Harawira adrift

6:29 am on 13 November 2009

The Maori Party is considering cutting adrift its controversial MP Hone Harawira, and forcing him to become an independent MP.

The idea was put to Mr Harawira at a hui on Thursday of about 150 people in his Te Tai Tokerau electorate to discuss his political future.

Party president Whatarangi Winiata says Mr Harawira is hard to manage at times, and kaumatua struggle to deal with him.

Professor Winiata says he fears he may destroy the party. He also doesn't like the idea of losing Mr Harawira from the party but says he may serve the people of Northland better by going.

Mr Harawira says becoming an independent MP is stupid, and the "silliest idea he's ever heard". He says he will resist the move.

He says he is committed to the Maori Party and believes it is the way forward for Maori and any issues can be worked out in caucus.

The party's kaumatua will take another two weeks to make a final decision.

Tumultous week

The hui was held after a week in which Mr Harawira has had to offer a public apology and restate his commitment to the party.

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

Mr Harawira has apologised for the racially-charged and explicit language he used about white people in the email.

Non-Maori media groups barred

Journalists from non-Maori language media organisations were barred from much of the hui.

A man helping to organise the media involvement says it was Mr Harawira's decision not to let them into the business end of the meeting, at which party co-leader Pita Sharples made a surprise appearance.

Journalists from Maori Television's Te Kaea and Television New Zealand's Te Karere were permitted to cover the discussions about Mr Harawira's future.

But media from non-Maori language organisations were only allowed into a part of the meeting that included singing, dancing and a swimming demonstration.

The unconventional meeting was held at a school swimming pool, which has a large public area, in Kaitaia.

Peters takes aim at Maori Party

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says Mr Harawira belongs in a gang, not in Parliament.

Mr Peters says Mr Harawira's comments have revealed the depth of the party's racism.

He says the party is all about taking resources off non-Maori, and grabbing social and economic control.

Mr Peters launched his attack in a speech to Grey Power in Wanganui on Thursday.

He says Mr Harawira made an outrageous slur on New Zealanders, and his outrageous racist remarks signal something very ugly.

Mr Peters says Mr Harawira has an absurd sense of entitlement, and believes he can pick and chose what rules to follow or disregard.

He also says Prime Minister John Key is an apologist for the Te Tai Tokerau MP.