Tuesday, July 15, 2014

CRIME IN HENDERSON: Has Maori leadership failed their people?

 CRIME IN HENDERSON: Has Maori leadership failed their people?

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB) organised a forum in Henderson in early July, 2014 in response to worsening law and order situation, and ways to identify the problems and seek solutions. This was a high powered forum which saw speakers from the community, police, Government, Opposition and Auckland Council. They included Manoj Tahal from Waitakere Indian Association, John Tamihere from Waipareira Trust, Inspector Rob Cochrane from Police, Hermann Retzlaff from Labour Party, Minister Paula Bennett from Government and Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse from Auckland Council. 
While many questions were raised, hardly any got answers, as usual. This is the first part of media coverage, with respective community response: Indian and Maori

Indians make worrying statistics

Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB), as an advocacy body, saw a special reason to hold such a forum, as more often than not, it is the ethnic people who become victims to such wanton violence. There is a feeling that unless some judges and Member of Parliament have their loved ones killed this way, things may not change in New Zealand in the near future where ethnic people will merely continue adding to fatal statistics figure, as they have been doing for last two decades. Arun Kumar, who was brutally killed by a young Maori kid in Henderson in June was the eighth person of Indian origin to be a victim of such violence. The worse thing is that this has been going on for some two decades yet our authorities and agencies appear to be sleeping on the job.

Part of the large audience present in the WEB Forum on Crime in Henderson on 3 July, 2014. In front, second from right are Mahendra Sharma from Waitakere Indian Association, and Ashok Darji and Nanette Nathoo from Manukau Indian Association / New Zealand Indian Central Association ( NZICA)
In October, 1993, Navin Govind was killed by three teenagers at work in his Four Square supermarket in Kelston, Auckland, only ten minutes from his home. Other shopkeepers, Navtej Singh, Shiv Prasad, Bhagubhai Vaghela and Krishna Naidu were also brutally killed at their workplaces, as was Arun Kumar in the latest brutality. Hiren Mohini, a taxi driver, and Jasmatbhai Patel, a victim of road rage, also met tragic deaths. Indians appear to be adding to these statistics while the authorities are claiming there is a reduction in crime. Is this really so, or are crime figures manipulated, as claimed by some? Can we really believe the statistics given out by police? Reality on the streets of Henderson is contrary to reducing police figures.
More Question than answers on Maori dysfunctional families

First speaker from community, MANOJ TAHAL, representing Waitakere Indian Association. He raised so many questions, but we all are waiting for answers which are not forthcoming. Why are young kids able to get away with small offences which can lead to more serious crimes as in this case? Are our laws tough enough to deal with these out of control kids or is it a question of enforcement?”
The first speaker at WEB Forum, Manoj Tahal from Waitakere Indian Association (WIA) did not mince his words and raised many questions that still have not been answered to date. On the issue of the 13 year-old offender, he asked:” Was he attending school regularly, if not where was the truancy service? If his parents were themselves offenders, what was being done to guide him in the right direction? Why are young kids able to get away with small offences which can lead to more serious crimes as in this case? Are our laws tough enough to deal with these out of control kids or is it a question of enforcement?” he asked the high-powered forum.

He raised another valid point- just before the tragic death of Mr Kumar, a 13 year old threw a brick at a shop owner in Te Awamutu. No charges were laid as the crime did not meet the high threshold for a minor. Tahal wished to know from the authorities: “What is the threshold? Is it murder?”

He raised another unanswered question about the rehabilitation process of young offenders and the multitudes and layers of agencies involved. The biggest irony was that it was unclear which agency was the lead one in charge of monitoring the rehabilitation process. It was also unclear who was ultimately accountable, if anybody at all, for the failures and gaps.

Part of the large audience
Tahal cited the experience of his Indian community where it has been noticed that the kids who got on the wrong side of the law are the kids who do not understand their own language and culture and they are deprived of cultural identity. To illustrate this, he quoted Hon. Judge Heemi Taumaunu, Hoani Waititi Rangatahi Court Judge, speaking at the 21st Pacific Judges Forum in March, 2014:

“Throughout the generations, prominent Māori leaders and respected elders have stressed the importance of Māori holding fast to the Māori language, protocols, and culture, to ensure the survival of Māori people into the future. This message is based on the premise that if the Māori language is lost, then the Māori culture will follow, and ultimately, so will the Māori people.

Part of the audience :third from left in front is Tuwe Kudakwashe, President of Waitakere Ethnic Board. (WEB)
It is a tragedy that most Māori youth who appear before the Youth Court have no knowledge of their own Māori language and have no idea of who they are and where they are from. Most do not know what tribe they belong to, what Marae they originally come from, what mountain and river they belong to.
They have no idea of the rich treasures left to them by their ancestors. Their language and culture is often borrowed from Black American hip-hop culture."

Has Maori leaders failed their people?

The question that goes begging here is, have Maori political leaders like Doctor Peter Sharples, Tariana Turia, Winston Peters and Hone Harawera, among others, failed their people? While the Iwis are wallowing in wealth, do grassroots Maori seem to be crying for financial help to rescue them from poverty that Waitangi settlements were supposed to deliver? Who are the beneficiaries if those needing assistance are not getting them?

JOHN TAMIHERE, CEO of Waipareira Trust, represented Maori Community. So many questions raised remain unanswered. Why do we have so many dysfunctional Maori families, and  inability of Maori organisations to tackle the problem. Why, despite Maori Iwis worth some $40 billion dollars, are the wealth of Iwis not used to benefit the people? What can be done to address the problem? Who are the beneficiaries of this money and what can Maori leaders do to help?
Perhaps this leads us to the guidelines and questions that were given to respective speakers. We had asked the representative of Maori Community, John Tamihere, CEO, Waipareira Trust the situation of dysfunctional Maori families and inability of Maori organisations to tackle the problem. Why? What are the constraints? Why, despite Maori Iwis worth some $40 Billion dollars, are the wealth of Iwis not used to benefit the people? What can be done to address the problem in Maori families that are at the forefront of many crimes? Who are the beneficiaries of this money and what can Maori leaders do to help? Like all questions raised by Manoj Tahal, all the above questions also remain unanswered, and no mainstream journalists seem to assemble enough courage to ask or seek some direct answers.

John Tamihere informed that Prime Minister John Key’s electorate was just on the border of West Auckland from Helensville, while Leaders of Opposition David Cunliffe’ s fell within parts of West Auckland in New Lynn and Minister Paula Bennett was from Waitakere and comprised the kitchen Cabinet. John sought more resources for West Auckland. “Three murders in South Auckland, $16 million of new funding goes in, 100 extra police, and so on and so forth. West Auckland 5, and nothing. We cannot be damned by the silence of our lead advocates.” Tamihere said, pleading for more government and local government attention to West Auckland.

Increased police presence on streets of Henderson subsequent to outcry from public on demand for more security.
He continued that Auckland Council has projects but West seems to have been neglected. “There is Southern Initiative and Tamaki Transformation, nothing for us in West, all seems to go South. There is deprivation issues, we need support from central and local government, we need support, and something has to change. We want support for youth to come to West – we want greater resources to West,” he pleaded to the authorities.

So, Maori need greater resource from local government and national government to help their people. And the question goes begging, what has become of that wealth that should be used for the welfare of the people. What is the money that belongs to Maori is being used for? Despite so many Marae and facilities provided by Government, why cannot respective Maori Iwis organise themselves and utilise some portion of money for the benefit of current people, not for future generations, when the current generation is becoming dysfunctional.

Other speakers at Waitakere Ethnic Board Forum: from left, Herman Retzlaff from Labour Party, Inspector Rob Cochrane from NZ Police and Councillor Penny Hulse, Deputy Mayor of Auckland Council. News coverage of their presentation would come in part two of KIWI PUNDIT media report.
Many questions raised in this forum remains and will remain unanswered, because we have become so politically correct. But the fact remains that if people comprising 15  per cent of population occupy some 50 per cent of prison population, something has to be wrong somewhere. And when all we hear in crime news is that the attacker was a Maori or Polynesian, then there appears to be a problem. If this was the situation of marginalised and neglected Aborigines of Australia, it would have been believable. But this is about the the very well-resourced first settlers of New Zealand for whom laws have been very generous, and the community is worth some $40, 000 million dollars (that makes it $4 billion).
These questions will remain unanswered, same way as why the authorities failed to protect those who needed protection, and will continue adding on to assault and fatal statistics.
The next stage of the coverage of the forum will hear from the political parties, the police and the local government. You would never see this coverage in any mainstream, or side stream media, who were all invited to this event.

The speakers at the Forum: from left, Minister for Social Development and Waitakere MP, Paula Bennett, and Manoj Tahal.

[E-mail: thakurji@xtra.co.nz]

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a blogger who runs blog site KIWI PUNDIT. He is also Media and Communities Liaison Officer of Waitakere Ethnic Board. www.kiwipundit.blogspot.co.nz]

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