Hone Harawira, an elected member of New Zealand parliament for the newly formed Mana Party, caused a stir on July 14 when he refused to swear allegiance to the English queen in order to take his seat.
Instead, Harawiri swore allegiance, in Maori, to Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the 1840 treaty between Maori tribes and Britain that recognised Maori ownership of their lands.)
Stuff.co.nz said that day that parliamentary speaker Lockwood Smith refused to swear Harawira in as an MP on the grounds his affirmation was not legal.
“As Harawira left the debating chamber, supporters sung from the public galleries in defiance of Smith's ruling for them to cease,” the article said.
“Outside Parliament a large crowd of supporters gathered to perform a haka as Harawira prepared to address them clad in a traditional feather cloak.”
By refusing to swear an oath to the queen, Harawira was fulfilling an election promise in the June 25 Te Tai Tokerau by-election.
Harawira first won the Te Tai Tokerau seat as a member of the Maori Party in 2005, but he left the party over its deals with the right-wing National Party government.
The Mana Party was formed in April on a platform of Maori liberation and workers' rights.
Joe Carolan, a member of the Mana Party in Auckland, campaigns organiser for the Unite union and editor of SocialistAotearoa.blogspot.com, told Green Left Weekly: “The reality is New Zealand is a colonial state and was founded on theft of Maori land and murder of Maori people.
“For parliament to force a representative of Maori people to swear allegiance to the queen before his own people or before New Zealand's founding document ― the treaty ― it is a huge insult.
Carolan said Harawira's stance “began a big national debate about archaic institutions such as the monarchy and the class society it represents, as well as an Anglo-centric culture that is not in touch with 21st century working-class reality in New Zealand”.
“It also demonstrated how the Mana Party intends to conduct its business in the capitalist parliament. How we start is how we intend to continue.”
Carolan said the Mana Party's approach to parliament could be summed up in the argument of Irish socialist republican James Connolly: The capitalist parliament is a dungheap from the top of which you can blow the trumpet of freedom.
“To be thrown out of parliament within three minutes of entering the place must be a world record for a radical left-wing party. It shows the fear and contempt the establishment holds us in.
“This is how we intend to use parliament ― to be disturbers of the peace, as Connolly said.
“We are proud of Honi for his stance.”
In the November elections, the party is looking to get its vice presidents ― veteran activist John Minto and radical lawyer Annette Sykes ― elected to join Harawira.
Carolan told Green Left Weekly: “What is apparent [in NZ politics] is a gap on the left. The Labour Party has plummeted to all time low of 27%.”
In power, Labour has attacked workers' living standards, sold off public assets and introduced the goods and services tax.
Carolan said, in contrast, Mana was committed to abolishing the GST, taking the rich and achieving full employment.
“We want to use the billions used to bailout finance to create full-time jobs on living wage for all.”
“We are here to fundamentally change New Zealand,” Carolan said. “We are not fucking around.”