The rise of the Maori Sovereignty movement in the post Bastion Point occupation era (January 1977) saw a lot of emotionally-charged rhetoric.

Indeed, as a university student in the early 1980's, I can well remember some more of the radical Maori activists telling people like me (i.e. Pakeha) that we were 'foreigners' and that we should 'go home' back to Britain or wherever.

There were even public statements from Maori activists about Pakeha's being 'driven' from Maori land and 'into the sea'.

Since then Maori grievances have been largely accommodated by both National and Labour Governments and most of these activists had been integrated into the mechanisms of government, the public service and various business boardrooms.

The author of the 1980's book 'Maori Sovereignty', Donna Awatere, became a MP for the right wing, pro-free market ACT Party until she was convicted on fraud charges.

Some of these activists are now in Parliament right now as, for example, Maori Party MPs.

But old habits die hard and the co-leader of the Maori Party, Tariana Turia, is still prone to the same race-based views. Who can forget her claim of a 'Holocaust' in reference to effects of British colonisation on Maori?

I'm sure if these activists back in the 1980's had had their conversations bugged we would have been privy to some even more intemperate comments.

Indeed, the likes of Ms Turia and fellow Maori Party co-leader Dr Peter Sharples could possibly of been arrested on 'terrorist charges'.

But in the nervous post- 9/11 era, the police have arrested a handful of Tuhoe or Tuhoe-linked activists on the basis of a perceived 'terrorist threat'.

Yesterday the Dominion Post, ignoring court orders, published some statements from 'leaked' police statements that purport to 'indicate' what these activists were up to.

So we have read comments, among other things, about 'explosives', 'assassinations' and 'killing a Pakeha'.

It makes for juicy headlines and increased newspaper sales but proves very little.

What are the context of the statements? Who made them? When? And, who 'leaked' them to the media? Was it someone within the police bureaucracy?

These questions aren't addressed but it just stokes the fires of public opinion against a handful of hotheaded individuals whose only 'crime' appears to have been to have made some silly, intemperate comments -and who have a faulty and reactionary raced-based view of New Zealand society.

Of course, they thought they were just having a private conversation - they didn't know agents of the state were listening in.

What is more concerning is that the legal process is being deliberately subverted to such a degree, that those arrested are being labelled 'terrorists' even though the attorney general has already said there is no credible basis to charge the arrested with offences under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Smearing political activists, of whatever flavour, with the label 'terrorist' is a dangerous development for a society that claims to be 'free and democratic'.


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