Democracy means government by the people, or a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
It is a state of society characterised by formal equality of rights and privileges.
And (in this definition, at least) it features
Right there we can see why democracy might be problematic for Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi, who would have surprised nobody when he outlined his vision for a ‘tiriti-centric Aotearoa’ where the majority doesn’t rule over Māori
In other words, he wants Maori to be politically privileged.
When he said this, he drew attention to a reality which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her ministers won’t publicly acknowledge – that our democracy is being gradually debilitated by measures her government (and its predecessors) have introduced or may introduce, depending on the outcome of consultations with some “key” Maori tribes on the controversial governance proposals promoted in the He Puapua document.
This is a so-called “independent” report into how New Zealand could fulfil its obligations to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which the country signed up to in 2010.
ACT has denounced the report as a step towards New Zealand becoming an “ethno-state” while National leader Judith Collins says it contains a “radical interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi”.
The Government glibly insists the report’s contents are not policy and senior Labour MP David Parker on Friday ruled out recommendations such as a separate Upper House of Parliament for Maori.
But democracy-undermining co-governance arrangements have burgeoned on
Ardern’s watch and Waititi isn’t dismayed.
He is reported as saying New Zealand could be the “best nation in the world” – but not necessarily as a democracy.
The concept of an Upper House for tangata whenua, promoting as part of the slide towards a co-governed New Zealand, doesn’t go far enough for him. He says he wants a completely independent Maori Parliament.
“That’s absolutely different to having an Upper House,” he told Newshub Nation on Saturday, citing the Treaty of Waitangi. “We want to be in total control of our sovereignty… which is tino rangatiratanga.”
Asked how that would work, Waititi pointed to the Tuhoe settlement of 2013.
“Look at the Tuhoe settlement – that wasn’t co-governance. That was Tuhoe sovereignty. The transfer of assets back to Tuhoe will show how actually this can work. Tuhoe is probably an example of how they have been able to negotiate within the system to come up with their own sovereign solutions to their problems.”
Waititi said he was concerned the ire against Maori will get worse when consultation on He Puapua goes out to the wider public and fears the backlash will prevent further progress.
“This is what happens in partnership – partnership is democracy, and democracy is majority rules. So we lose out again. And so shouldn’t indigenous people be coming up with indigenous solutions to their oranga (survival)? Why would you leave it to a majority then to decide the fate of indigenous people? Because that’s what’s been happening all over the world for many, many years.”
Waititi previously had signalled his thinking on the shortcomings of our democratic institutions just hours after Parliament officially opened, when he accused the Speaker of the House of being intolerant (Trevor Mallard intolerant?) and railed against the “tyranny of the Pākehā majority”.
The two MPs and co-leaders for the political party, Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, walked out of Parliament in its first session after being overruled by Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard.
The co-leaders were aggrieved that their party leaders were the only ones not allowed to speak on the first day.
This had something to do with the Standing Orders in Parliament which barred new MPs from speaking twice in the session – in the case of the Māori Party MPs, first in their maiden speeches and then as co-leaders.
The party sought to suspend this rule twice but failed.
But here’s the thing: will Waititi rail against the tyranny of the majority when the Ardern government does whatever it determines to do to implement all of or part of the recommendations in the He Puapua report?
Whatever her government decides to do can not be stopped – except by the strength of expressions of public opposition – because Ardern commands a majority of MPs in the House of Representatives.
Waititi is unlikely to vote against anything that grants yet more privileges for Maori.
Bob Edlin is a veteran journalist and editor for the Point of Order blog HERE.