Friday 10 December 2010

Injured Majesty

Ruler by Divine Right?: The Maori King, Tuheitia, has unilaterally dismissed the Chair of the Tainui Parliament, Tania Martin. The King's advisors argue that Tuheitia's status as paramount chief of his people over-rides the democratic elements of the Iwi's constitution. The English King, Charles I, asserted something similar in 1641 and sparked a civil war.

IT WILL BE an interesting test.

Over-riding the tribe’s constitution, the Maori King, and Paramount Chief of the Tainui Iwi, Tuheitia, has dismissed Tania Martin, the democratically elected Chairwoman of Te Kauhanganui – the Tainui parliament. Her offence? Issuing a report sharply critical of the way the King and Te Arataura – his advisory board – have been managing the tribe’s resources. Her report has been interpreted as a direct thrust against the King’s mana – his authority and prestige. The equivalent in European law is lèse majesté – "injured majesty".

The test can be broken into three questions:

The first is whether or not the Tainui people, acting through their marae representatives, will challenge the King’s actions.

The second is whether or not the King and his advisors will allow themselves to be over-ruled by their own people.

And the third is whether or not the political leaders of Pakeha New Zealand will have anything to say about the political drama unfolding in the Waikato.

They should. Because Tainui’s drama is practically identical to the drama our own ancestors lived through more than 300 years ago. The rights and privileges which Members of Parliament still enjoy, and which we, as free citizens, hold dear, are all directly traceable to the bloody drama known as the English Civil War.

King Charles I found it intolerable that he was fiscally accountable to his own people through their Parliament. Believing that his political authority came directly from God, he refused to accept that his powers could be circumscribed in any way by the will of his subjects. When Parliament refused his demands for money, and declared his closest advisors traitors, the King, with 400 soldiers, tried to arrest the five politicians responsible. Forewarned, the parliamentary leaders escaped. London erupted in fury. Charles and his family fled, first to Oxford, then to Nottingham, where, on August 22nd 1642, he "raised his standard" – effectively declaring war upon his own subjects.

To date, King Tuheitia’s coup has been considerably more successful than King Charles’s. His dismissal and replacement of Te Kauhanganui Chairwoman, Ms Martin, is a fait accompli. It’s as if Charles had succeeded in arresting those five members of the House of Commons – leaving their stunned colleagues to debate their next move under the watchful eyes of the King’s musketeers.

That’s where the Tainui parliamentarians are now. They must either convene Te Kauhanganui in defiance of the King and reconfirm Ms Martin in the Chair, or accept that Tuheitia and Te Arataura have successfully asserted their right to manage Tainui’s affairs independently of, and without reference to either the local marae – or Te Kauhanganui.

What will Te Arataura’s next move be if Te Kauhanganui defies the King’s fait accompli and reinstates its discarded Chairwoman? If past practice is any guide, the Advisory Board will ask for a court injunction to enforce its executive authority.

Right there is where Tainui’s drama starts spilling out of the realm of Tuheitia and into the realm of Elizabeth II. So, right now, the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Attorney General, and every other New Zealand MP, need to start thinking about what their next move will be if the worst happens, and a Pakeha judge, by sanctioning the subversion of Tainui democracy, shreds Article Three of the Treaty of Waitangi.

If our political leaders do not step in and prevent Tuheitia from succeeding where Charles I failed, then more than the whanau and hapu of Tainui have reason to feel afraid. Because, at that moment, all of us – Maori and Pakeha alike – will know that John Key’s deal with the Maori Party, has solidified into a dangerously intimate and profoundly undemocratic alliance between the executive arm of the Pakeha state, and a small, legally protected clique of aristocratic Maori politicians and businessmen.

The very same combination of unaccountable political and economic power which our ancestors, for nine bloody years, fought a vicious civil war to break up and bring under their control.

This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 10 December 2010. 


Danyl said...

'Our ancestors'?

Chris Trotter said...

To: Danyl

If you do not include English, Scots or Irish in your family tree, Danyl, my apologies.

New Zealand's constitutional conventions are, however, indisputably - and very strongly - influenced by those of the Westminster System.

My use of the plural pronoun simply assumes an inherited identification with and acceptance of those conventions. But, if you reject them, Danyl, then perhaps you'd like to tell us what sort of political system you prefer.

One where an unelected person gets to over-rule the wishes of the majority, perhaps?

pollywog said...

...and if we don't effing like it we can eff off as well - KIng To HAte YA

shame on him, his mum will be spinning in her grave...

"is that the stench of coruption or the revolting smell of peasants in the air"

markus said...

Yet more confirmation of Dr Elizabeth Rata's core thesis.

Anonymous said...

"Our ancestors" is certainly a sweeping statement. My ancestors, for instance trace back to the North and West of England where there was considerable support for Charles in the Civil War -and I have a tincture of Scots presbyterian blood - They probably supported the Covenant and warred against Charles on purely religious, not constitutional grounds. After Charles escaped to Scotland, they were quite happy at accept him as absolute king so long as he officially supported Presbyterianism.
Some of my ancestral cousins may have been among those captured and shipped off as slaves to the American plantations after Dunbar. No Irish blood, but for those who have, their ancestors may well have tasted the delights delivered by Mr Trotter's free-born English ancestors at Drogheda

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous @ 2:07PM

All of which rather reinforces my point that the English Civil War touched the lives of just about everyone in the British Isles.

Few people realise that the casualty rate, when adjusted for population, was greater in the English Civil War than it was in the First World War.

I'd also note that the use of the expression "our ancestors" is a relatively common way of refering to the collective historical experience of a nation - not simply to personal genealogy.

On that score, however, the Trotter's were Lowland Scots, whose home in the 17th Century lay just to the north of the English border. My ancestors actually fought on the side of King Charles I - thus beginning a very long tradition of backing the losing side in most of the great historical conflicts of the next 200 years.

Victor said...

If Charles Stuart is too distant in time and space, perhaps Tuheitia could learn from the unexpected example of George Tupou V.

BTW None of my ancestors were anywhere near Europe's off-shore islands in the mid seventeenth century. However, the English Civil War is firmly part of my personal heritage.

markus said...

Well, if we're all going to reveal personal genealogy, then:

Lowland Scots, Ulster Prods, Cornish tin-miners, French Revolutionaries, Clerkenwell (central London) Chartists/Socialists, Lincolnshire Shopkeepers and Nottingham lace-makers.

Pretty much sums up my ancestry.

Anonymous said...

Lincolnshire Quakers represent!

Loz said...

What is bound to be seen as a shredding of Treaty articles would be the intervention of New Zealand leaders in preventing Tuheitia from exercising unqualified chieftainship or 'te tino rangatiratanga' over lands treasures and wealth. How unqualified chieftainship can actually be exercised while acknowledging the primacy of laws enacted by parliament is the problem this crisis repesents.

I doubt there is a family in New Zealand where decisions are based on the principles of British law and yet, all Maori politics is essentially family based. As kids, our little "tribe" would have loved to use our numbers to over-rule Dad, "due process" was mostly about doing what you're told and freedom of speech also had very real limitations. That's actually how most families work.

The fact that tribal or family politics (in any society) doesn't require democracy, gender equality of freedom of speech is distasteful but not a revelation. Just as is its no surprise to see a figure like Tuku Morgan appearing in the middle of such a contraversy.

This problem is not a problem for the family or Tribe of Tainui. The problem is that "Te Kauhanganui o Waikato-Tainui" is an incorporated society recognised by the democratic (not Pakeha) state of New Zealand and Tuheitia is essentially assuming authority to act outside of legislation because of his tribal standing.

I hope the judiciary upholds that all New Zealanders are equal before the law, not because of the Treaty of Waitangi but because of the principles of democracy. If the Treaty was successfully used to assert to kingship rights of individual Maori over the democractically enacted laws of parliament then there would be good grounds for New Zealand to have its own civil war.

Sanctuary said...

Poor Charles - named after his beheaded forebear Charles I - when he and Camilla were sourrunded by a mob chanting "off with his head!"

"Egad Camilla! Get down! We're being attacked by Roundheads!"

Bearhunter said...

Being entirely Irish ancestrally, I find it hard to admire the English Civil War, given the destruction it wrought in Ireland. It's all very well discussing it now as a series of points of democratic principle, but an estimated 618,000 dead dwarfs the death rate in England itself and that doesn't even take into account the estimated 40,000 sold into slavery in the West Indies and America as a result.

Victor said...


Your point is well made. Taken together, the 'Wars of the Three Kingdoms' were a human disaster, and particularly in Ireland.

However, the domestic English part of the wars removed the likelyhood of a Bourbon or Hapsburg-style royal tyranny being established anywhere in the islands and was therefore a key event in the long, tumultuous development of what turned into parliamentary democracy.

In that sense, we are all its heirs, including Polish/Belgian Jews such as myself.


I hope I would behave with the courage, dignity and presence of mind of Prince Charles, if ever I was faced with a similar threat.

In that sense only can he be compared to Charles Ist, who "nothing common did or mean Upon that memorable scene."

Whatever your views on the monarchy, there's something inherently cheap, tacky and cowardly about the constant pillorying of people who perform dutifully in roles they never asked for and who aren't able to hit back.

And, of course, the 'mob' made it all the easier for Cameron and Clegg to pass legislation that will scupper the educational and life prospects of hundreds of thousands of non-privileged Brits. There's nothing particularly funny about that.

Sanctuary said...

What a load of bollocks Victor. Charles is a complete inbred twit, and just like the Stuarts I suspect he is probably a closet Catholic, he is that sort of tedious fellow. The monarchy has been a handbrake on the modernisation of Britain since the 1850s, keeping the place socially frozen in the middle of the nineteenth century.

It takes a special sort of mental contortion to feel sorry for someone who only qualification to loaf about all his life in considerable luxury before being appointed head of state as a reward for nothing at all is who his mother is.

Off with their heads? Huzzah! And hoist the bloody results on a pike!

Tauhei Notts said...

Your erudite post was published in various Fairfax newspapers, but not in the Fairfax paper where it would have had the most impact. I am talking here about the Waikato Times.
That is sad.

Victor said...


OK, you're bloodthirsty as well.

What sort of better society do you think is bred from hatreds such as yours?

Don't you think even 'inbred twits' are human?

JohnDee said...

And just out, "The King has been defeated" long live the "King"
Referring of course to the back down today.

Sanctuary said...

Just for you Victor -

Victor said...

Sorry, Sanctuary, but Chris's otherwise excellent site isn't good with hyper-links. So I'll probably have to stay ignorant.



Anonymous said...

Oh my god Sanctuary, he's a CATHOLIC!?!?!?!?!

And to think he's allowed to walk around in the open like a regular person!

The mind boggles!