Thursday, November 17, 2005

Garth George: Meddling over our foreshore law is barefaced cheek

So a meddling United Nations bureaucrat has descended, or is about to descend, on us to "probe" whether our seabed and foreshore law has breached Maori rights. What barefaced cheek.

And the suggestion that our Government should be bracing itself for "embarrassment" over Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen's visit is nothing but arrant nonsense. There is no way the geezer can embarrass this country, not if you look at the outfit he represents.

It seems he asked for an invitation to come here after an approach to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by a few bunches of disaffected Maori, who should be ashamed of themselves.

What sort of New Zealander would whinge to an inefficient and corrupt organisation such as the United Nations just because they can't get their own way in their own country? It's tantamount to treason.

It seems that a complaint prepared by Ngai Tahu, the Taranaki Maori Trust Board and Treaty Tribes on the seabed and foreshore issue was sent to this obscure UN committee, whose report was rejected by the Government.

The report criticised the haste in enacting the legislation and the lack of consideration given to alternative plans. The UN committee found (what else?) that the legislation was racially discriminatory, saying it extinguished the possibility of establishing customary Maori rights yet failed to provide guaranteed redress.

Well, what the Government should have done when asked for an invitation was to tell this Mexican bloke to go take a jump. We need his sort here like we need an outbreak of avian flu.

Helen Clark has said that the committee he is employed by has "most unsatisfactory" processes and "sits on the outer edges of the UN system". You can take that as gospel.

The committee, among its 18 members, contains such paragons of human rights virtue as China, Russia, Algeria, Brazil and Pakistan. Then there's Burkina Faso, a land-locked dot on the map of Africa.

Just last weekend its President, Blaise Compore, who took power in a bloody coup in 1987, had himself "re-elected" for a third term, in spite of the former French colony's constitution specifying only two presidential terms.

In what is described as the poorest and least-developed country in the world, Mr Compore is reported to have spent the equivalent of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars on his campaign. Bet he knows a thing or two about racial discrimination, eh?

Professor Stavenhagen, who is described as a "rapporteur" for the UN committee, is scheduled to attend four hui, including a major one at Parihaka at the weekend, where, the Herald suggests, he can expect to hear severe criticism of the Government.

Well, you can put a ring around that. And the sad part about it is that this foreigner will probably believe more than half of what he is told and write the sort of report he prepared on the Philippines, which has been described by people who know as "a litany of unsubstantiated allegations and ridiculous recommendations".

Surely there are some intelligent Maori out there who are prepared to mount a challenge to his presence at the hui and give him an earful, not of whinges but of a mere?

It is said that he is here to gather information. Not so. If his main input is from hui, and hui called by the disaffected at that, then what he will get is only one side of the story.

He is also to have a meeting with Michael Cullen, who so far has wisely kept his head down on the matter and refused any comment. I would love to be a fly on the wall of that meeting when this globe-trotting busybody meets our urbane and wily Deputy Prime Minister.

Not that it will do any good. You can guarantee that Professor Stavenhagen will present those who pay his no doubt substantial salary and copious first-class travelling expenses with a negative report. Because that is what they will expect.

They must, after all, continually give themselves a plausible raison d'etre lest someone with a few brains concludes that they are superfluous and are wasting UN money which could be better spent trying to fix some of the real tragedies of racial discrimination in the world today.

Maori Party "co-leader" Turiana Turia is to have her own private audience with Professor Stavenhagen, and I wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall at that one, too. According to her, the Government "is embarrassed that he has come".

"Now they [the Government] are going to have to front up and it's going to be very interesting to hear what they have to say."

Poor Mrs Turia. If she thinks people like Helen Clark and Michael Cullen and their colleagues will be embarrassed by some jumped-up nobody from an obscure and largely discredited UN committee, she hasn't taken much notice of the pragmatism of those with whom she was tight for so many years.

As for National's Gerry Brownlee: "It will be, to say the least, testing for [the Government] to have a rapporteur here very carefully questioning the way in which they have dealt with the indigenous rights of Maori."

Perhaps Mr Brownlee is unaware that the first definition of the French "rapporteur" is "sneak" or "telltale".


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