Peter Sharples, co-leader of the reactionary Maori Party, is in a huff with Labour. And he's getting all high and mighty about it.

The reactionary Maori Party have come up with the draconian idea that there should be a separate Maori prison system. Labour have described this as 'separatist' and now Sharples says that the Maori Party might have difficulty with working with Labour in the future.

He also says that Labour's policies 'are on the wrong path', the implication being that he and the Maori Party are the source of all political wisdom.

Well, those who have watched Sharples bumble his way through Parliamentary question time would have strong doubts about that implied claim - he's been spending a lot of recent time evading answering questions.

I don't hold any brief for Labour, no surprises there, but Labour is correct to oppose a separate Maori prison system.

What Sharples just doesn't get is that crime is a class and not a race issue.

I'm not going to go into all the intricacies here but it's patently evident that most of the people who get locked up are working class. Since Maori are predominantly working class it's no surprise that a lot of them are behind bars.

Because Maori are predominantly working class they have suffered the ravages of the exactly the same neoliberal economic policies that Peter Sharples and his Maori Party colleagues support.

Most working class Maori resort to crime simply a as a means of economic survival - just like working class Pakeha.

But Sharples doesn't want to know about this because he speaks only for that new layer of Maori capitalists who have benefited from neoliberalism.

Professor Elizabeth Rata has identified what is essentially a new Maori capitalism - what Rata refers to as a 'neotribal capitalist regime of accumulation.'

This has seen the transformation of tribes into capitalist enterprises dominated by a small Maori elite of lawyers, businesspeople, leaders, bureaucrats.

These are the people that Peter Sharples and the Maori Party represent.

Professor Rata writes:

Under neotribal capitalism, this access to what paltry resources have been returned to Maori is effectively exclusively controlled by the new tribal capitalist elite. Even if ownership of resources is nominally owned by the whole tribe (the corporate tribe, and not an individual, is the legal owner), and even if iwi members have a shareholding in the business, the undemocratic nature of neotribal capitalist business ensures that working class iwi do not have any real say in the corporate iwi head office.

So what is Sharples offering working class Maori who have not seen any of the wealth? He's offering them their own prisons. What a disgrace. What an insult to all Maori.

Sina Ana Brown-Davis was so right when she wrote recently on Indymedia:

'I can’t think of anything more offensive than to be held under lock and key by your own, and maybe on your own whenua. Then being force feed your culture by Maori who wouldn’t even give you the time of day on the outside.'

Peter Sharples is more interested in making money for his Maori capitalist friends than truly representing the interests of ordinary Maori.


  1. If imprisonment was solely a class issue, then Maori would only be over-represented in prisons to the extent that they have a higher proportion of working class members than Pakeha. There is no way that analysis can explain the 50% of the prison population who are Maori.

    With completely speculative baseline numbers, if Maori make up 15% of the population, and have 80% working class members rather than say 60% in the general population, then your analysis would suggest that they would make up 20% of the prison population. Even if they were 100% working class, then the figure would max out at 25%.

    There have to be other factors above and beyond class distribution driving that over-representation.

    As an analogy, similar numbers of men and women occupy the same classes (if anything, males as a group are more prosperous and likely to own capital, run businesses, etc). Yet males are grossly over-represented in the prison population also. Does a purely class-based analysis account for that? Or is it possible that there are non-class factors, whether biological or social, that predispose males to criminal acts compared to women?

    Would you suggest that men in prison couldn't benefit from gender-specific rehabilitation programmes? We certainly accept that they can be put in separate prisons from women (although for different reasons).

  2. Maori make up to 60 to 65% of the prison population add class oppression to racism & see what you get. 900 million in the budget for this prison bullshit & 300 new police in South Auckland, all our people that got sent to the wall by Douglas & Richardson, their children & grand children get sent to the wall again. That the Maori ruling elite are complicit in accepting their own as fodder for the prison industrial complex makes me sick.

    And no I don't believe that if you learn about your culture it will turn you into a "good " maori, na having a decent life where you don't have to struggle, steal, deal or whatever to feed your family thats what stops people going to prison.

    Dont forget that over policing from a racist police force that can break its own laws and kill young polynesian men with impunity.

  3. Declarity is way to into statistics rather than veiwing why it maybe important for Maori to have separate prisons.

    When I look back in history, I find Maori have learned to live in a very communal iwi, hapu way, meaning daily tasks and nuturing was highly regarded by all members of the iwi to ensure the life of Maori.

    If separating Maori in prisons is a way of re-intergrating them back to whanau and society, where lays the problem?

    Put aside all statistics and focus on the cure for reoffending, we may find more Maori stay out of prison rather than in prison.

    In saying that, what will happen to police officers, lawyers and judges if offending was to become non-exsistant? They too would become non-exsistant and out of work. Could this be a reasoning to why Government stands against Maori in separate prisons?

    I think, if Maori were to have separate prisons, then they will be better off for their families. Meaning, lifestyle changes whether doing dishes to producing gardens. The family benefits.

    People think "Maori have one law and everyone has another law" isnt supposed to be "one law for all". When we read Te Tiriti O Waitangi, only then will people understand there were two law governors. One governed the British peoples and Maori was to be governed by our Maori Rangatira. It was our entitlement to this land and resources.

    So really, remarks made about Maori having one law is absolutely correct....

    Give Maori the right to practice what we need too, to ensure the cultural practices for the future, even if it means separate prisons for Maori...

  4. One law for Maori, one law for Pakeha - I take it 'Pakeha', in this context, refers to everyone else - ie., Europpean, Chinese, Pacific Islanders, etc.

    Why dont we just get straight to brass tacks and spell out what we are really suggesting - that we are not going to integrate ever.

    There will always be inequality in NZ, either in favour of Pakeha or Maori, and this will harbour the feelings of resentment and hate that we read about or hear every day.

    We have all heard that 'New Zealand is a great place to grow up... to raise kids', and I believe that to be true. But once we are grown up and educated it's time to move abroad. Why fight the fact that differences will always create hate. If you think this sounds far-fetched then answer yourself just one question; Do you remember the last time Maori and Pakeha lived together in harmony, no resentments, no slurs? Its a dream. And if we were all the same ethnicity we would hate each other based on religion.

  5. Chris clearly has no Maori friends, workmates or neighbours - I pity him, he should get out more.

    On Prisons: Sharples line - prisons are pakeha institutions and are failing Maori - is seductive, because they are clearly failing for Maori. But he always forgets to mention are also failing for "Pakeha". And they always will - because as endless studies show, Prisons are not rehabillitative institutions. (And capitalism will continue to produce an endless stream of new prisoners).

    People stop going back to prisons when they are able to find legal solutions to their life challenges (employment/legal drugs/sociable behaviour etc), that stop sending them there.

    Prisoners who are starting to make "positive" changes (ie; getting their heads around the need to keep existing under capitalist reality), will obviously benefit from "culturally appropriate" instruction, learning and encouragement - but there is nothing particularly Maori about that.

    Sharples needs to look like he is doing something otherwise he might not get re-elected, so he keeps banging on about Maori Prisons. National, always ready to privatise any state interests(all the easier for their buisness mates to get their hands on it), will support his efforts.

    Prisoners across the board, on the other hand should look forward to much of the same - and rely on their own organisation and organisations to better their own conditions.


Comments are moderated.