Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Harawira's opportunistic try-on in the Far North

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. Hone Harawira and his mates are manning checkpoints on main highways in the Far North to intercept tourists and turn them back, ostensibly to protect their people from Covid-19. He describes it as a border-closing exercise. And the police, whose statutory duty is to maintain law and order, appear to have meekly gone along with this brazen usurpation of their authority by a failed MP (he was tossed out by his own Maori voters in 2014) with no legal mandate whatsoever. So too, we are told, has the local mayor, former National MP John Carter.

While the eyes of the country and the media have been on supermarket queues, toilet paper shortages and prime ministerial press conferences, Harawira appears to be using the health crisis as a smokescreen for an opportunistic grab for power – and he’s getting away with it.

Some commentators have rightly highlighted the risk that new rules imposed to control the spread of Covid-19 will lead to an abuse of state power, but an even greater danger to civil liberties is posed when Maori activists take it upon themselves to limit people’s freedom of movement. Politicians can at least be punished at the next election if they get things wrong or overstep the mark, but who is Harawira accountable to? No one.

We didn't see this coming, but perhaps we should have. Harawira comes from a whanau with a long history of bullying and aggressive behaviour.

His concerns about the threat posed to Maori health in the Far North by thoughtless overseas tourists might be entirely valid. Elderly Maori are especially vulnerable. But no one, Maori or otherwise, gave Harawira the right to take matters into his own hands (with the help of his rugby league-playing mates, whose presence at the roadblocks can be counted on to intimidate travellers into complying with their instructions/requests).

This is a classic try-on: a direct challenge to the authority of those who are supposed to be in charge, such as the police and district council. And far from resisting him, they’re cravenly waving him through.

Police deputy commissioner Wally Haumaha dresses up police co-operation with Harawira as a matter of supporting local iwi and encouraging people to work together. It’s not about putting roadblocks in place, he assured Radio NZ. But that’s exactly what it is, even if Haumaha prefers to use bullshit euphemisms such as “safe assembly points” or “community safety zones”.

Harawira was also interviewed on RNZ but predictably wasn’t asked the obvious questions, such as who appointed him as local commissar or where he got his authority. He talked of “weeding out tourists” and “politely” turning them around and sending them back to Auckland. He sounded like a man confident no one would try to stop him, and indeed claimed he was working with the police.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who remembers the failure of the police to take action on previous occasions when Maori protesters defied the law by blocking public roads leading to disputed land, or allowed the iwi of James Takamore to keep his body against his family’s wishes when all the courts said it had no right to.

You could almost be excused for wondering whether Harawira fancies himself as a local version of the Middle Eastern and North African warlords who exercise total authority within their own domains and are answerable to no one.  The disgrace is that the people we rely on to uphold the rule of law are standing back and letting it happen.


Tinman said...

You moan about a small time thug when your country is being taken over by an unelected cohort of incompetents and communists.

The bigger picture is the need for New Zealanders to stand up, to put an end to the current dictatorship.

A cold (and indeed that is all covid-19 is), less deadly than influenza or the automobile, should never be allowed to be the vehicle (yes, intended) to a one-party state.

Mr du Fresne use your voice for freedom on New Zealanders!

Mark Wahlberg said...

I noticed on one news clip, roadside health checks were being carried out by a young woman wearing a white gown and mask with a screen caption declaring her a "trainee Doctor" or title to that effect. At what point do her actions constitute an invasion of civil liberties? I thought it was illegal to masquerade as a doctor?
Not only that, many of these new age cultural vigilantes were wearing masks and freezing works gumboots while marshaling motorists to the side of the road like lambs to the slaughter.
I suspect I'm being a tad facetious, but Who checks the checkers?

Odysseus said...

I am shocked that the Police appear to be aiding and abetting this lawlessness. Why has the Opposition not challenged this? As for tourists, they should be in lockdown wherever they were at 11.59 last night or leaving the country if they are still able to do so.

Ron said...

The road blockers should all be in their homes. If not; arrest them. Or is there two sets of laws here.

Hilary Taylor said...

Yes Karl, noted by many, and we all have the same questions as you. We were on Alert Level 3, now 4. All were encouraged to be 'at home', and this was vigilantism, abbetted by those who are paid to know better. One motorist cautiously raised the obvious concerns, but the useless journos raised none, & we were meant to cheer on those tourists turned away. They won't be back & it certainly wasn't 'kind'. surprises there.

Doug Longmire said...

Yes - there are two sets of laws and funding. Has been for a long time.
I notice that in the financial support package announced by Grant Robertson, there is a separate (extra) parcel of about $56 million specifically for Maori.

Andy Espersen said...

Like you, Karl, I was amazed when I heard about this - and astonished as he is getting away with it. Living in Nelson, I have no opportunity - but isn't there a case for some driver on that road to have him on in court? I would most certainly pay towards his/her legal expenses.

Doug Longmire said...

I heard Mike Bush being interviewed and he was asked about the Northland illegal road blocks being carried out by a person with no authority. Bush sidestepped the question by making some vague statement about how he/the police needed to "talk to local groups" or somesuch similar weak evasion.
Make no mistake - if you or I did this, the Police cars would be there asap, with sirens and flashing lights, to arrest US.

hughvane said...

I'm sure I could hear the sound of bristling from you Karl when, on Tuesday 31 March, Stuff featured a major article, including a photo of a smiling Hone Harawira and his cling-ons, doing their Corona protection thing north of Gisborne. If what I read is to be believed, - definitely not a given these days - Harawira had full police support. I can just imagine the police response if a group of Pakeha NZers in, say, Cheviot, set up a road block to screen all traffic moving along SH 1 through the town. One-law-for-all went out the window, or down the gurgler, in this country at least 20 years ago.

Karl du Fresne said...

You were right about the bristling sound but not about the location. Harawira's vigilantes operate in the Far North, in the nascent People's Republic of Tai Tokerau. The roadblocks/checkpoints (take your pick) in the East Cape region are the work of a different group.