Maori Party MP: Police clueness on Urewera raids

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell says a police admission they weren't aware of anyone specifically targeted by the Urewera four is another in a “series of errors.”

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell says a police admission they weren’t aware of anyone specifically targeted by the Urewera four is another in a “series of errors.”

Police have shown a “lack of understanding of what happened” and its impact on race relations, Mr Flavell said.

“Not one” Tuhoe person has ever said the police actions were justified, despite Police Commissioner Peter Marshall’s statements, the Maori Party MP said.

Mr Flavell contrasted the Urewera four sentence with man convicted two years ago for unlawful possession of military-style weapons, grenade launcher and anti-personnel mine, who go ordered to pay St John’s Ambulance $5000. “You’ve got to measure it up,” he said.

Tuhoe should be proud, not ashamed. Mr Marshall’s comments were “way out of order”.

Mr Flavell said he is confident “nothing sinister” was going on at training camps, but admitted not asking those involved.

RAW DATA: Watch the interview




We’ve heard the police view of Operation Eight and the danger posed by Tame Iti and his cronies. What does the Maori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell make of what the Commissioner was saying? The Waiariki MP is live with us in our Rotorua studio. Kia ora, good morning.

 Kia ora, Paul.

PAUL Interesting, isn’t it - Commissioner Marshall was saying that police had no idea what the targets were, but they went in anyway. Does that strike you as odd?

Well, it does strike me as odd, and it sort of adds to the picture that’s been developed over these last four or five years ever since this whole issue hit the nation that there had been a series of errors, I believe. A series of- A lack of understanding about what happened there, and even this whole case about what a huge impact it’s had on the state of the nation, and particularly around race relations, I might add, as well.

PAUL Yeah, but go back to what they were doing up there in the bush. The police were sure that this crowd were up to no good. They had them on tape. They were sure that lives and property were in danger. People were talking about killing, damage to buildings and so forth. What were they- Again, this is the big question. What were those guys doing up in the bush?

Oh, look, it’s not for me to answer that, Paul. I don’t know.

PAUL Well, have you asked questions about what they were doing?

Say that again?

PAUL Well, have you asked Tame Iti what the hell they were doing?

No, I haven’t. I haven’t asked him about what he’s done and what he did, but I do know a number of the people that were involved up there, and, look, we’ve got people who are professionals. They’ve been health workers. They’ve worked alongside Tame at the Tuhoe Hauora. They had their own lives to go about. And I’m very convinced myself about the number that I know that there was nothing sinister going on at all.

PAUL The Police Commissioner said that elders there in the Ureweras were worried about- they think that the police action was justified. They were worried for themselves and their community. Do you accept that?

I don’t know about that, but I’ll say this - ever since this issue rolled out, there has not been not one Tuhoe person I’ve ever come across that said that their actions were justified. And in fact the gentleman Mr Paki Nikora that the Commissioner talked about earlier was actually on a hikoi on the day that the kohanga reo went through the Whakatane community protesting about the action that happened.

PAUL Again, though, go back to this High Court judge. He has lived with this whole affair for months on end, and he said he believed democracy was at risk. He had no hesitation in giving Tame Iti this two and a half years. I mean, he must know what was going on, mustn’t he?

Well, he wasn’t there, but what he did do was dispel the whole myth that there’s some sort of view about terrorism going on, and that the charges have been, to all intents and purposes, minimised to issues about firearms. Now, in looking at that, I’m disappointed about the outcome of the judge’s determination about what’ll happen in two and a half years, on the basis that number one, Tame and Te Rangikaiwhiria had been about the community for about the last two and a half years and there had been no issues about trying to take over the government at all. Number two, that there’s a precedent in terms of other ways of dealing with firearms charges, and the information I got was for prohibited and regulated weapons and explosives offences. 151 for imprisonment - that’s the number of people who’ve been imprisoned; 167 for 2010, just last year. And the last one, Paul, is that about two years ago a gentleman by the name of Bernard Shapiro, he had unlawful possession of two military style semi-automatic rifles, thunderflash explosives, power gel explosives, eight sticks, two military flares, a smoke grenade, a grenade launcher, an anti-personnel mine; he pleaded not guilty. He’s found guilty on seven of the eight charges. And what does he get? He gets asked to pay $5000 to the St John’s Ambulance. You’ve gotta measure it up on those sorts of terms.

PAUL Well, a friend of mine on Friday was making a comparison between what the captain of the Rena got - seven months - and Tame Iti’s two and a half years. Do you believe that the police would ever act as they did that day in Remuera or Parnell, as Shane was asking?

Ah, that’s an issue for them to consider, but all I can say is this - that their actions on that day were way over the top, and in hindsight, as we look back, there’s been a comedy of errors. I mean, I’ve got statements right here, Paul, from people who are mothers with young children who were taken out by the armed offenders squad on that day, locked away for eight hours without any questioning and food, and the children with them as well in separate rooms. There’s umpteen stories like that. I’ve had constituents come to me about being basically ostracised in their own communities in Whakatane, I’m talking about. You know, what we’ve forgotten is there’s sort of two parts here. One is to do with those people who actually had to front this thing for the last three or four years, and those in the community - and I’m a little distressed about the Commissioner’s point about saying that Tuhoe should be ashamed - I don’t think so. In fact, Tuhoe should be proud, and will be proud, obviously, about themselves as a nation. But to throw those sorts of accusations round is well out of order.

PAUL The Commissioner said he was looking forward to being invited back. Do you think he will be?

Well, I like to think that he was way out of line, for starters, on issuing an apology on the day that Tame Iti gets two and a half years prison, for goodness sake. So that’s for Tuhoe to consider whether he gets back into that community.

PAUL Mr Flavell, thank you very much indeed for your time.

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