Indigenous New Zealand lawmaker censured for haka protest

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Rawiri Waititi

In this image from video, Indigenous New Zealand lawmaker Rawiri Waititi speaks in Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Waititi was thrown out of Parliament’s debating chamber later for performing a Maori haka in protest at what he said were racist arguments. Waititi’s stance came after ongoing debate among lawmakers about the government’s plans to set up a new Maori Health Authority as part of sweeping changes to the health care system. (NZ Parliament TV via AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — An Indigenous New Zealand lawmaker was thrown out of Parliament’s debating chamber Wednesday for performing a Maori haka in protest at what he said were racist arguments.

Rawiri Waititi’s stance came after ongoing debate among lawmakers about the government’s plans to set up a new Maori Health Authority as part of sweeping changes to the health care system.

Some conservative lawmakers have said the plan is separatist. Waititi, the co-leader of the Maori Party, said those arguments amounted to racist rhetoric.

Waititi told lawmakers in the chamber that he was forced to listen to a “constant barrage of insults” directed toward Indigenous people.

If that kind of attitude was acceptable, he said, “then I find this House in disrepute.”

Speaker Trevor Mallard then told Waititi to sit down but instead he performed the haka, a traditional dance or challenge accompanied by a chant.

“Order. The member will now leave the chamber,” Mallard told Waititi, which he did along with his party’s other co-leader, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

It’s not the first time Waititi has clashed with Mallard. In February, he won a battle against wearing a tie in Parliament, ending a longstanding dress requirement for men that he described as a “colonial noose.”

Mallard also threw out Waititi from the debating chamber during that dispute after Waititi showed up wearing a traditional pendant around his neck called a hei tiki.

But Mallard backed down the next day, saying neckties would no longer be compulsory, after a committee of lawmakers came out in favor of ending the requirement.

But Waititi’s latest stance isn’t supported by all Maori lawmakers.

After Waititi left, Labour Party Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis pointed out the relatively small support base for the Maori Party.

“Don’t ever think that a party that gets 1.2% of the vote actually represent the views of Maoridom,” Davis told lawmakers.

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