Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Let Justice Be Served

The slow and often creaky wheels of justice are finally turning, in the case of the Urewera Four.
The four remaining members of the "Urewera 17" - Tame Iti, Emily Bailey, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara and Urs Signer (described as armed revolutionary leaders by the Crown) - were arrested in an Oct.1997 police operation in the Urewera Ranges, after extensive surveillance on what's alleged to be a Tuhoe terrorist training camp.
The four are charged with illegal possession of firearms and being in an organised criminal group: they've pleaded not guilty - while Signer used the words "I'm innocent of all charges", a ploy oft used by radicals to say "Because I don't recognise your authority over me, I'm innocent of your charges".
Outside court, the usual gaggle of protesters and supporters, holding flags and banners showing their allegiances: Tuhoe, the Mana Party and the Maori separatist flag.
Before the case began, Tame Iti said he was ready to "debate the issues". Sorry, sunshine - you're in court now, not a three-ring circus! He likens the case to colonial oppression of Tuhoe in the 1860s and feels unsure if he'll get a fair trial. He took a light-hearted approach, saying he'd make himself as comfortable as possible, find somewhere to have a sleep and possibly do some art over the next three months. This flippancy merely underscores the contempt in which he regards the court and the NZ legal system: remember, this is the man who 'brown-eyed' the Queen!
Mana Party leader Hone Harawira is calling the Crown's case "deeply racist" but, as always, Hone Bro needs to familiarise himself with the definition of the word racist before using it...because no-one's uttered anything of the sort! Has the Crown, the police, any commentators said Tuhoe, maori or the defendants are sub-human? Or that because of their ethnicity they're inferior? If Hone expects the four to get preferential treatment because of their ethnicity, that expectation is borderline racism.
Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell takes a more mature approach, hoping the evidence will help the public "find out what actually is behind this". He says Tuhoe have been "tarred with the brush of being terrorists" and it's important the truth is exposed.
And that is indeed the purpose of a trial: to ascertain the truth and, if needed, deliver a punishment. Though some may wish to spin it as racism, this trial is simply about the laws by which everyone in New Zealand must abide.

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