All the on-the-record rationale for the defection – from the MP herself and her new party colleagues.
Unlike recent political party evacuees, Meka Whaitiri has been anything but verbose. Forty-eight hours after the Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP’s announcement on Wednesday morning that she was done with the Labour Party and joining te Pāti Māori, she’s said almost nothing. Not to parliament, not to the media. Not to Willie Jackson. Not to Chris Hipkins.
Whaitiri has communicated, in some form or other, with the speaker of the House, from which he’s determined that she hasn’t notified him in writing she’s leaving the Labour Party, though he has deduced she’s leaving the Labour Party. But forget that. For the purposes of this article, we’re concerned with her reasons for deserting one party for another.
Commentators have offered various explanations, spanning umbrage at being overlooked for promotion back into cabinet to a sense of being muzzled by government forces to dissatisfaction at the Labour government’s achievements for Māori. Forget that, too. What has she herself said? And what about her new party colleagues? Here’s everything we’ve found in answer to that, verbatim.
Meka Whaitiri, Waipatu marae, Hastings: “Māori political activism is part of being Māori. It comes from our whakapapa, and we as Māori have a responsibility to it. Not others, we. Today I’m acknowledging that whakapapa, I’m acknowledging my responsibility to it and it’s calling me home … As the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti sitting MP, I intend to be seated with te Pāti Māori when we return to parliament, joining an unapologetic Māori political movement to achieve what was promised to us 183 years ago.”
Meka Whaitiri, interview with Te Karere: “For me, it’s coming home, it’s my calling. It’s who I am as a Māori … When I came in to take the seat, back in 2013, I committed to doing 10 years. I’ve now turned that chapter, and I’m about to go on a new chapter … [It’s] about being unapologetic about achieving what we rightfully deserve in this nation as tangata whenua – our solutions, delivering to our people. That’s what I’m joining … People ask me what does emancipation look like – it looks like this.”
John Tamihere, president of te Pāti Māori, Waipatu marae: “Meka is coming home to her whakapapa. She’s crossing the floor, she’s crossing the bridge, to her own emancipation, from being controlled by others to a party that she controls … She’s walking away from a ministerial job. She’s walking away from a sure thing and she’s walking into an unknown. But she’s doing it for the mana of our people.”
John Tamihere, Radio Waatea: “Part of the emancipation and the liberation of myself, you name it, whoever it is, Meka, is to throw off the shackles that spiritually and physically are over us, where we’re always having to look over our shoulder to get the consent of the white man in regard to, ‘Am I doing OK? Don’t beat me up so much today. Am I unworthy as usual? Am I untrustworthy as usual?’ The emancipation of throwing off that level of suppression is a gleeful moment, a liberating moment. Her wairuatanga was gnawing at her. She’d had enough of that.”
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, co-leader of te Pāti Māori, Waipatu marae: “[This] is an affirmation of whakapapa … an affirmation of responsibility that we have to hold as wāhine Māori, as tangata whenua.”
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, RNZ: “There’s been high speculation that this is ‘anti-‘, a protest of some sort … There hasn’t been any of that in our discussions. There has been absolutely no ‘this beef’ … I think it is a values thing … there is a calling to go towards where we have more affinity … There is a really strong calling to assert our indigenousness, reindigenising ourselves. I don’t think that’s knocking any other party; it’s actually more a statement of affirming whakapapa.”