Maori Party plays down Harawira tensions

The Maori Party leadership is downplaying tensions over a complaint against its maverick MP Hone Harawira about his criticisms of its support of the National Government.

A hui is to be held on Thursday in Mr Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau electorate to discuss the complaint but the MP says the process so far has been unfair and pakeha-style.

At Ratana yesterday Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said he, fellow co-leader Tariana Turia and Mr Harawira had spent Sunday at the pa together. Mr Harawira did not attend yesterday's political events there.

"We're still are a team, we just happen to disagree over a few things," Dr Sharples said yesterday.

Maori MP Te Ururoa Flavell last week laid a complaint against Mr Harawira over comments he made in a newspaper column. The complaint was supported by co-leaders Dr Sharples and Tariana Turia, as well as MP Rahui Katene.

In a Sunday Star-Times column, Mr Harawira said the Maori Party had become too wrapped up in its coalition with National and that many people were saying it was coming off the rails.

"The downside of being in government with National is having to put up with all the anti-worker, anti-beneficiary and anti-environment (and therefore anti-Maori) legislation that comes as a natural consequence of having a right-wing government," he wrote.

He also strongly criticised the Marine and Coastal Areas (Takutai Moana) Bill.

The party has argued it has achieved gains through its arrangement with the Government that it would never have got in opposition.

Mrs Turia said Mr Harawira was part of the decision to work with the Government.

"When we signed up to an agreement with National we all sang off the same song sheet. We looked at what National had achieved in the past with our people."

Mr Harawira said he was unhappy with an initial meeting of the party where MPs were asked to leave the room when the complaint was discussed.

The party has hired lawyer Mai Chen to advise.

"The process is not consistent with kaupapa Maori (Maori style of governance). I think that given that every time I am available to engage in discussions I am cut out of it," he told Radio New Zealand this morning.

The process was a "joke", "farcical" and denied him natural justice; "I also think that it's very, very pakeha the way it's being run".

Party president Pem Bird told Radio New Zealand that a proper process was being followed which was consistent with kaupapa Maori.

Mr Bird said MPs were asked to leave the initial meeting while he gave a report to the chairpeople of each electorate on the complaint.

"The complaint is in train, it's following the process," he said.

He said it would irresponsible to have the debate at that meeting as it was held to discuss election planning.

The complaint had been with Mr Harawira's electorate to consider since last Wednesday and the hui this week was the right time for views to be heard.

"Meeting face to face in a safe environment is Maori."

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