Parliament and Politics

September 8, 2017

Today Meka Whaitiri, a member of parliament in the Labour Party, warmly greeted and welcomed us into the parliament building. She met us in the Māori Affairs Committee Room, which is located in the parliament building. The room served a similar function as a Marae, and the interior was similar to a Marae as well; instead of poupou, there were portraits of previous Māori politicians. We were greeted in a fashion similar to a pōwhiri: exchanging a speech and a song, followed by the hongi. I found the resemblance to a Marae protocol to be significant in regards to not only paying respect to Māori ancestors and culture, but also to empower Māori people who are involved in politics and represent their iwi.

The parliament buildings

During the tour, we were taken to the court room where new laws are passed. The room had the names of countries that New Zealand had fought in war with. Following the tour, we had morning tea with Meka and discussed more about the parliament. It stood out to me when Meka told us that there are some Māori MPs who acknowledge their Māori whakapapa only when it is convenient. In doing this, the genuine motive to represent Māori interests becomes illegitimate as well as the intention to represent the whakapapa that these MPs now conveniently claim to relate to. I found it disheartening that considering how proportionally little Māori there are in parliament, these Māori MP choose to represent certain sides or issues and only turn to their whakapapa almost as a last resort. It made me reflect on how Māori sovereignty in politics can become distorted when people must make choices between what they choose to represent. These MPs must represent a side of an issue and oftentimes this could outweigh the desire to represent the Māori side of issues, or in other cases MP’s claim their Māori heritage to use as an advantage. With whakapapa being a significantly large part of Māori culture, relating to whakapapa when convenient seems to undermine the roots of the culture and heritage they claim to have. Despite having Māori MPs in parliament, Māori sovereignty in politics seems to still be constricted.

The system of politics sheds little light onto the Māori peoples, and this creates an environment where Māori interests are not prioritized, or even cast aside.

— Eunice

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