Category Archives: Legal

Waitangi Day

 

Today February 6 is a public holiday in New Zealand – Waitangi Day.  It celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi the nation’s founding document that was signed on this day in 1840.

The document was signed on behalf of Queen Victoria by William Hobson and by various Maori chiefs representing their tribes.  NZ Maoris are tribal and there is not one Maori nation and so the Treaty had to be taken around the country for signing by other Maoris.  The two versions of the Treaty (one in English and one in Maori) are not identical and over time there has been much debate as to what the two sides actually agreed.

The Treaty gives Maoris the rights of British Citizenship and rights to their land.  The English version of the Treaty promises to:

  • protect Māori interests from the encroaching British settlement;
  • provide for British settlement; and
  • establish a government to maintain peace and order.

while the Maori understand it to :

  • secure tribal rangatiratanga (most often defined as chieftainship); and
  • secure Māori land ownership
Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Treaty Grounds, Waitangi

Traditionally celebrations are held at the Treaty House in Waitangi.  Politicians and other leaders are welcomed onto the marae, (a sacred open meeting place) by Maori elders.  Recently there has been a lot of dissension and Waitangi Day has become the focal point for Maori discontent.

However, apart from the Treaty we do have the Waitangi Tribunal where claims by Maori for redress for breaches by the Crown  are made.  The claims and settlements have been a significant feature of race relations since 1975.

Successive Governments have attempted to compensate Maori for the loss of their land and quite large settlements have been awarded.  This too has caused dissension particularly among the Pakeha (the Maori word for those not Maori) and some of the Maori tribes who have not received compensation.

So while February 6 should be a day of rejoicing and celebration, it is regularly marked with protest.  This year the Prime Minister, John Key was ‘drowned out’ by protesters when making his speech.

Our peaceful bi-cultural nation is hurting under the arguments and protests and in the end nobody wins.

 

Different Worlds

“Two different worlds
We live in two different worlds
But we will show them as
We walk together in the sun
That our two different worlds are one”
As sung by various artists.

These are the lyrics from an old song – way back in 1956 – and yes it was a love song, but it came to mind today when I read the headline  “Driving Car Gets Saudi Woman 10 Lashes”.

Saudi woman at wheel

From womeninsaudi.com

Apparently it is illegal for a woman to drive a car in ‘the conservative kingdom’ and this woman has been caught behind the wheel several times in recent weeks.  She attended a mass rally in June to garner support for women drivers. Since then, dozens of women have been involved in a campaign to try to break the taboo and impose a new status quo. The campaign’s founder who apparently posted a video of herself driving on Facebook, was detained for more than 10 days. She was released only after signing a pledge not to drive or to speak to the media.

Shaima Ghassaniya, the woman sentenced to the lashes, has been stopped on three occasions and each time was given the opportunity to sign the pledge not to drive again.  Each time she refused and this is the fourth time she has appeared in court.  The final time she was sentenced to the ten lashes.  This woman is Western educated and holds a masters degree and is to hire a lawyer to appeal the sentence.

What makes this all the more confusing to us in the Western world is that just two days ago King Abdullah made an announcement granting women the right to vote and to hold public office.  Where does this ban on driving fit in?

We most certainly live in two different worlds.  We are allowed the freedom not available to women in so many other countries.  Saudi Arabia is the only nation in the world where women do not have the right to drive.  What other rights do we take for granted that are not allowed to them?

The breaking news via the BBC is that King Abdullah has overturned the sentence, although this has not yet been confirmed officially.  This added to the earlier news that women will be allowed the vote, must help move this nation into the 21st Century where all people are treated equally.

End of rant for today.

Human Rights, Prayers et al

“I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.”  ~Gandhi

I read this post from Fribnit’s World the other day and lo and behold the next day in our local newspaper was an item whose headline read “Prayer row heads to tribunal”

Map of New Zealand

Wikipedia

This is all about a row that has erupted in Wanganui  in the Manawatu region of New Zealand.  Wanganui is approximately 122 miles north of Wellington on the map. Apparently in April, the Mayor suggested that reference to God should be removed from the prayer that opens each meeting as a way of respecting all the faiths in the community.

We are told “The informal remark sparked a furore about whether praying was an appropriate item of business on the council agenda”*  And now a complaint has been made to the Human Rights Commission** which stepped in to mediate.  One Councillor has admitted that he laid the complaint and that he has now asked the Office of Human Rights Proceedings (an independent director attached to the Commission) to consider taking his case to the Tribunal as no solution was found during mediation.

We are also told that most councils open their meetings with a prayer and this is just a continuance of the way things have always been done.  What do you think about this?

  • Should this practice of opening with a prayer continue
  • If it continues should the reference to God be removed to take into account the various faiths represented in the community
  • Should this matter go as far as the Human Rights Tribunal **
  • Does there need to be more open discussion on this matter

Each sitting of the country’s parliament is opened with a prayer.  If this case does go to the Tribunal the reverberations could reach parliament and then what will the decision be?

On August 5 2011 the National Secular Society in the United Kingdom reported on a decision handed down recently in the United States.  “A federal appellate court has struck down a North Carolina county’s policy of opening board meetings with sectarian prayers. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled 2:1 that the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ preference for Christian prayers violates the constitutional separation of church and state.”

I am quite sure that we haven’t heard the last of this and that the discussions on the matter will go on for many months.

Notes – *   Reported in the Dompost August 13 2011
** “The Human Rights Act sets out the primary functions of the
Human  Rights Commission. These are to advocate and promote respect for and appreciation of human rights in New Zealand society; and to encourage the maintenance and development of harmonious relations between individuals and the diverse groups in New Zealand society.”