The world’s press is having a field day with John ‘loosest slot machines’ Key’s latest political gaffe.
He’s insulted Tuhoe (and no doubt some other Maori Iwi too) at a tourism press conference by implying they were cannibals, then made an apology that suggested that only the too sensitive would have taken offence – a classic piece of passive aggressive behaviour.
Some sources are calling it Cannibal-gate and there are numerous variations of the “NZ PM roasted over cannibalism comment” and “prime minister in hot water” type headlines around.
John Key is both the Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism in New Zealand. According to Radio NZ he made the remark twice this week. We think the first time it may have been a slip of the tongue, but twice makes it look both insulting and calculated:
“Mr Key made the joke initially on Tuesday while at a marae with another iwi, Ngati Porou, saying if it had been with Tuhoe, he would have been dinner.
In a speech in Auckland to about 200 people from the tourism sector on Thursday, Mr Key alluded to the dispute in a joke.
“The good news is that I was having dinner with Ngati Porou as opposed to their neighbouring iwi, which is Tuhoe, in which case I would have been dinner,” he said, “which wouldn’t have been quite so attractive.”
His quip was made after Tuhoe accused Key of reneging on an agreement to return sacred lands, in the North Island’s Urewera National Park, that were seized by settlers over 150 years ago. Cannibalism, obviously, has not been practiced in New Zealand for many, many generations so his remark will have offended many people, not just Maori.
We liked Vanity Fair’s account the most as it highlights the passive aggressive nature of what passed for an ‘apology’:
“Prefacing a statement of regret with the phrase “if anyone is offended” is a cherished pan-cultural tradition of passive-aggression.
Take, for instance, the incident in New Zealand earlier this week, when Prime Minister John Key upset Tuhoe tribe leaders by implying that they are cannibals.
“The good news was that I was having dinner with Ngati Porou as opposed to their neighbouring [tribe], which is Tuhoe, in which case I would have been the dinner, which wouldn’t have been quite so attractive,” he said at a conference, referencing that time New Zealand did not give the Tuhoe some land they were expecting to receive.
He later apologized: “It was a lighthearted joke, a bit of self-deprecating humor. But if anyone is offended, then I deeply apologize,” he said. This tactful rhetorician is at once negating anyone’s ability to call him insensitive while simultaneously implying that the offended party is being way too sensitive.”
The UK’s London Evening Standard published their account along with a wonderful shot of Key quaffing a beer whilst Prince William turned the steaks
“But Tuhoe chief negotiator Tamati Kruger wasn’t laughing or very forgiving.
“I’m just astounded that the prime minister can make light of what we regard as a very, very serious situation regarding … our future relationships with the Crown. I don’t think it’s becoming at all of a prime minister,” Radio New Zealand quoted Kruger as saying.
Kruger went further in the New Zealand Herald report.
“It gives me the sense that whatever we say or do he will never, ever take it seriously,” Kruger said in the Herald report. “He is affirming a rigidness which is not really in the spirit of good faith negotiations. He is really going to force Tuhoe into a position that makes us look like the bad guys.”
A few days ago the Maori party issued a press release about the importance of Te Urewera.
The Hon Tariana Turia
Maori Party Co-Leader
May 11, 2010
“Scorching of Tuhoe must stop
The Maori Party wants the public to learn the facts of what happened to Tuhoe, saying this will help them understand why the tribe is so passionate about getting back Te Urewera.
“Many New Zealanders are aware of the story of Parihaka, now it is time for this nation to learn about what the Crown did to the children of the mist,” Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said.
“Until this nation learns about the devastating impact of the Crown’s scorched earth policy on Tuhoe and the confiscation of their land, it will never be able to appreciate the justice and equity Tuhoe is seeking.
“Generations of Tuhoe will continue to be scorched until the Crown returns their land to them.”
The Crown’s 1869-1872 scorched earth campaign resulted in mass starvation and deaths in the Tuhoe nation as they were forced to watch flames destroy their crops, shelter and land – more than 180,000 hectares of which was confiscated.
“This was an extremely hurtful period for Tuhoe and it is still very much alive in their minds today.”
Perhaps Mr Key should offer an apology for that atrocity before making any further comments about ‘cannibalism’?
Also see our blog post from 20 April 2010:
At long last New Zealand has had its arm twisted into signing the United Nation’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without any caveats according to the Maori Party.
143 countries have already signed the declaration, New Zealand is one of the last remaining UN member states (NZ, Canada and USA) to reverse their opposition to the declaration.
The declaration is a non-binding text and sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.
Prime Minister, John Key, has already said the signing will have no practical effect..more