Wednesday, February 06, 2008
WAITANGI DAY IN NEW ZEALAND BRINGS OUT MAORI ACTIVISTS
A large convoy of cars traveled across the Auckland Harbor Bridge in New Zealand yesterday in protest against not being able to fly the Maori flag (pictured here) on the bridge on Waitangi Day. The protesters say they are really trying to raise awareness. The Maori Sovereignty flag, the Tino Rangatiratanga, symbolizes liberation and identity.
Te Ata Tino Toa representative Tia Taurere said the flag symbolized the long tradition of struggle and resistance by Maori against colonization and the Crown theft of Maori land and resources.
"I think there is a lot of fear behind the ignorance. We would like to change that kind of thinking to seeing a positive symbol instead of something they fear," says protester Tia Taurere.
Te Ata Tino Toa, also had asked the Auckland Airport, councils, kohanga reo, The Warehouse, NZ Post, Auckland University, media outlets and other groups to parade it in the five days before the public holiday. So far, the university is the only public institution to say it will fly the flag.
Professor Margaret Mutu said although the flag had flown on various occasions at the university's Waipapa Marae, it had been in full flight since the "ridiculous controversy".
"By not flying a flag they [Transit] are demonstrating a fear of it. I don't know what that fear is - maybe a fear of the unknown. They're scared to acknowledge the part Maori play in this country.
For most New Zealanders, Waitangi Day is about rest and relaxation but for Maori it has become a symbol of activism.
This year hundreds of people marched on the treaty grounds at Waitangi in support of those arrested in last year's police raids on a so-called terror ring.
The group walked from Te Tii marae and circled the flagpole before being welcomed at the carved meeting house in the treaty grounds.
Police and Maori wardens surrounded the flagpole at the treaty grounds as the group marched on.
Tame Iti who was one of the 16 people charged under the Arms Act after police raids throughout the country last year said people have become scared of the fight for political independence. But he says te mana motuhake is about the freedom free to be a Tuhoe, or a Ngapuhi - or a Pakeha.
The following is from Radio New Zealand.
Protest against banning of Maori flag on Auckland harbour bridge
About 20 cars slowed traffic over the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Wednesday in a protest over the banning of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag from the bridge.
Transit says it closed two north-bound lanes for safety, and there were tailbacks as protesters took about 30 minutes to drive across to the North Shore at 5km/h.
Te Anau Tuiono, a spokesperson for the Maori sovereignty group Te Ata Tino Toa, says flying the Tino Rangatiratanga flag would acknowledge Maori status as tangata whenua - much as the Aboriginal flag is used in Australia.
The Government rejected a request to allow the flag to be flown last year, and Transit has altered its policy so only the New Zealand flag can be raised on the bridge.