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'I will die for you': New Zealand's youngest MP in 170 years makes powerful first speech | WATCH

Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke spoke in her native tongue and assailed government policies against indigenous people in the country, including the Māori community from where she belongs. She is New Zealand's youngest MP since 1853 and won the Hauraki-Waikato electorate last year.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Wellington Updated on: January 05, 2024 16:11 IST
Te Pati Maori MP Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke during the
Image Source : AP Te Pati Maori MP Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke during the swearing-in ceremony.

Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke, New Zealand's youngest MP since 1853, grabbed the attention of social media through her maiden speech in the Parliament, where she spoke in her native tongue and assailed government policies against indigenous people in the country, including the Māori community from where she belongs.

In a report by the New Zealand Herald, the 21-year-old Maipi-Clarke dedicated her last month's maiden speech to all tamariki Māori, "who have been sitting in the back of their classroom their whole life, whakamā, waiting for generations longing to learn their native tongue, to the tamariki who haven’t been to their pepeha yet, it is waiting for you with open arms".

Dressed in a white suit with a red blouse and her dark hair down, the MP said, "In only a couple of weeks ... this Government has attacked my whole world ... Health, taiao [environment], wai [water], whenua [land], natural resources, Māori wards, reo [language], tamariki, and the right of me and you to be in this country under Te Tiriti."

What did Maipi-Clarke say?

She further said that standing for elections and becoming an MP had "definitely" not been her plan, but the government "kept tampering with things they shouldn't be touching, and that's why I left the māra (garden) to come here."

"To Hauraki-Waikato, I am at your service in and outside of Parliament. I will die for you in these chambers, but I will live for you outside these four walls...To our mokopuna, they can attack me, but I will not let them attack you. Our first words we spoke in this House was an oath to you," she said, addressing them in her native tongue.

What grabbed the attention of netizens was Maipi-Clarke's emotion-filled 'war cry' against the government's policies on indigenous peoples, which she expressed in her native language. “How can I not take anything personally when it feels like these policies were made about me?... Every time you hear my voice, it will echo of my ancestors. Every time you look me in the eyes, you will see the children that survived. Over the next three years, you will see history rewrite itself without a pen” she remarked.

Maipi-Clarke is the youngest MP in New Zealand in 170 years. She won the Hauraki-Waikato electorate off Labour stalwart Nanaia Mahuta, who held the seat since its formation in 2008 and has been an MP since 1996.

New Zealand's policies against indigenous communities

Maipi-Clarke's comments come after New Zealand's new coalition government, sworn in November 2023, decided to review the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, or Treaty of Waitangi, which upholds Māori rights, including the right to autonomy, The Guardian reported. The decision sparked angry protests from Māori leaders who feared that their rights would be affected and decades of indigenous progress would be unraveled.

The government – led by New Zealand National Party’s Christopher Luxon and with the populist New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, and Act party leader David Seymour sharing the deputy prime minister role – has announced at least a dozen policies that provide for Māori will be repealed or reviewed, including initiatives to improve Māori health outcomes, stopping race-based policies and minimising the Māori language use in public service.

Prime Minister Luxon said that voters wanted services provided on the basis of need, not race, and he was “strengthening democracy” for all New Zealanders. However, critics said that the moves are halting four decades of legislative decisions that form the basis of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Last month, thousands of Māori protesters took to the streets against these policies against the planned scrapping of the 180-year-old agreement. “We will not accept being second-rate citizens and being relegated backward by this government,” Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told the Guardian.

New Zealand has one of the least equal education systems in the developed world. Māori children are five times more likely to be in state care, and 67% of female prisoners are Māori.

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