Friday, March 12, 2010
Mike Butler: Alas poor Joris
The image of Joris de Bres waving his hands in the air at a press conference trying to explain his affirmative-action version of democracy was a little surprising, more tentative than I expected him to be.
Not long ago he was in the hot seat over Maori Party MP Hone Harawira’s "white motherf***er" email prompted a record number of 814 complaints. The total number of race-related complaints received by the Human Rights Commission for the whole year in 2008 was 407.
What did he do? He publicly asked himself what to do when a public figure makes a racially offensive statement. He said that “that it is incumbent on the Maori Party to address the issue to uphold its standards and values and to provide assurance to the public.” He published the Human Rights Commission’s section on freedom of expression. That was it.
So far, the debate over Maori seats on the Auckland council has been something like this: “We were here first, it’s our right to have a say in what is going on, and you are not letting us have a say.”
There may be a few more questions to discuss:
1. If there were dedicated Maori seats, would they be appointed or elected?
2. If appointed, who would appoint them?
3. If elected, who would elect them -- Maori roll, general roll, or both?
4. Who would qualify for the Maori seats, since who is Maori?
The “who is Maori?” question has become a political, not an ethnic, question.
Up until the 1976 Census, Maori were defined as having half or more of Maori blood. In 1974, the Kirk Labour Government’s Maori Affairs Amendment Act re-defined Maori as “All those with Maori ancestry, no matter how remote, were Maori for the purposes of the Act”.
In the 2006 Census, 298,395 people indicated their ethnicity as sole Maori, making up 7.4 percent of the population. A further 266,931 people identified as mixed-Maori, increasing the Maori proportion of the population to 14 percent.
Mr de Bres wants dedicated Maori seats for this 7 percent (or 14 percent) of the population.
He rejects the view that anyone, regardless of ethnic background, has a chance of getting elected to the council.
He publicly rejects the majority view that results from one-person-one-vote democracy.
He rejects the process of cultural assimilation, whereby a minority group gradually adapts to the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture.
If he advocates dedicated seats for Maori constituents, the next step would be dedicated seats for each island homeland of the Pasifika community, Malaysian, Chinese, Korean, and so on.
If that would be the case, he would be following a model used by nations to resolve ethnic bloodshed in a nation where there is no ethnic bloodshed.
He would thus create disintegration in a city that is already integrated.
at 7:40 PM