Thursday, June 29, 2006

Leave the Kahui whanau alone

In the past fortnight the Kahui whanau has suffered two tragedies. The first tragedy was the deaths of the twins Chris and Cru at Starship Hospital. Since that awful day, the Kahuis have had to endure a second, ongoing tragedy - a campaign of lies and vilification that has destroyed their lives and made them pariahs in their communities and prisoners in their homes.

We still don't know who killed the Kahui twins, but we do know the forces responsible for the destruction of the mana of the Kahui family. Journalists and politicians have devoted tens of thousands of words and hundreds of hours to the demonisation of a poor South Auckland family which had already suffered more than most Kiwi families could endure.

Even before the bodies of their children were cold, the Kahuis were being subjected to a campaign of harrassment by journalists and the police. Reporters staked out two family homes, and gatecrashed the tangi held last week for the twins. When the Kahuis understandably declined to talk to them, the journalists decided to interview their keyboards instead, and produced a string of inflammatory and highly speculative 'revelations' about the family. We were told that family members were raging alcoholics, because a few beer cans were lying about outside their home in Mangere; we were informed that they were child abusers, because a dirty nappy was found in their front yard; and we were told that they were 'the tip of an iceberg' of 'Maori abuse' because, well, they were Maori. Reports of the grief the twins' parents and grandfather had shown in Starship Hospital were quietly forgotten in the rush to demonise the Kahuis as vicious drunks.

Not wanting to be outdone by the journos, the police did their bit to make the lives of this bereaved family hellish. They bullied the father of the twins, who was still in a state of shock and consequently quite incoherent, into taking part in a long interview without any legal representative shortly after the death of his kids. When the Kahuis hired the young man a lawyer and demanded access to the tape of his interview, the police refused to hand it over, preferring to make dark hints about its contents. When, in response to this blatant attempt at intimidation, the Kahuis refused to talk further with the police, the cops fed journalists and politicians stories about a 'conspiracy of silence' and a family determined to 'get away with murder'.

Politicians have flocked to the Kahui 'story' like flies to a dungheap. In parliament, in the Beehive and on talkback radio around the country, we have heard them condemning the Kahui family and calling child abuse a 'Maori problem'. Of course, this sort of behaviour is par for the course for a certain section of New Zealand's political elite. National leaders have always been keen on Maori-bashing, and the seabed and foreshore crisis of 2003 showed that Labour could play the same game with aplomb. This time, though, some Maori leaders and politicians of the 'left' have chosen to jump on the anti-Maori bandwagon. The Maori Party has outdone even the Nats in the viciousness with which it has attacked the Kahui family. Maori Party MP Pita Sharples has emerged as the chief tormentor of the Kahuis, appearing on TV and radio to bag the family using the most derogatory of terms.

Shortly after the death of the twins, Sharples barged into the Kahui home at seven in the morning, and was shocked to discover a family member asleep on the living room couch after drinking a few beers. For this dreadful crime alone, Sharples deemed the whole Kahui family as 'dysfunctional'. Does Sharples not think that the scene he witnessed could not have been witnessed in countless thousands of Kiwi households the morning he visited the Kahuis? Will he be making dawn raids on other homes - the townhouses and apartments in wealthier suburbs of Auckland, for example - and then 'outing' their inhabitants if he finds evidence of alcohol consumption, or is the sort of humiliation he has visited upon the Kahuis only intended for poor Maori families who have recently lost children in tragic circumstances? Did it never occur to Sharples that somebody who has suffered such a loss might have very good reasons to take solace in alcohol, especially when he is being harrassed by scores of journalists and police? Did it occur to him that, in the grossly overcrowded Kahui home, somebody might be sleeping on the couch as a matter of necessity, not because he'd passed out there?

Sharples' friend Matt McCarten used his column in the Herald on Sunday to twist the knife in the Kahui family's back. McCarten is a high-profile member of New Zealand's trade union movement and a supposed leftist, but he used his precious column space to regurgitate the crudest, most violent right-wing caricatures of the Kahuis. It was no surprise to hear that the Kahuis received a death threat the day after McCarten's column appeared.

There is a real danger that the hysteria about the Kahuis and about Maori child abuse will be used as an excuse for attacks on the most vulnerable sections of the Maori population. There are clear parallels between the current outcry and the response in Australia to the revelations of child abuse in isolated Aboriginal communities last May. The Howard government and its friends in the media have used the issue of child abuse to demand that Aboriginal people renounce campaigns for justice over land theft and the 'stolen generation' of children and instead blame themselves for their problems. Instead of recognising that Aboriginals are the victims of over two hundred years of racist policies that have robbed them of their land and imperilled their cultures, the Australian government has cast them as victims of their own 'lack of values'. Instead of returning stolen land and resources and paying to improve public services like health and education in Aboriginal areas, the Howard government demands that Aboriginals simply 'get their act together' and magically overcome two centuries of genocidal state policies.

The Howard approach to indigenous peoples requires a caste of compliant, 'Uncle Tom' indigenous 'representatives' prepared to echo the state's criticisms of their own peoples and help the state administer and discipline their peoples. In Australia, these Uncle Toms include the likes of Noel Pearson, who praises Howard's plans to cut welfare for Aboriginals and dismisses the stolen generation and the theft of land as irrelevancies. Like Howard, Pearson favours drastic cuts in Aboriginal welfare entitlements and in government spending on Aboriginal communities.

In Aotearoa, Pita Sharples and his fellow Maori Party MPs are candidates for the same role as Pearson. Since its formation in the aftermath of the great seabed and foreshore hikoi of 2003, the Maori Party has moved steadily to the right, voting in parliament against the Civil Unions Bill and for National's anti-union 90 Day Probation Bill, and establishing close ties with the Act Party. Instead of making party policy around burning issues for Maori like poor housing, low wages, and stolen land, Sharples and his mates have focused on promoting the same sort of individualistic pseudo-solutions to indigenous problems as Howard offers in Australia. Maori Party MP Hone Harawira's campaign to criminalise smoking is a good example of the individualistic, 'blame the victim' approach of the right to the problems of indigenous people. Instead of pressing the Labour government over its failure to reduce hospital waiting lists and to provide better health services in the isolated parts of his electorate, Harawira is attacking Maori smokers, making them scapegoats for health problems that have their roots in racism and economic inequality.

The attacks on the Kahui whanau are only one example of a growing tendency to blame the most vulnerable and desperate people in society for their circumstances. To the media and to bigmouth politicians like Matt McCarten and Pita Sharples we should say: leave the Kahui whanau alone!

15 Comments:

Anonymous Mike B said...

You can say that again... I arrived in Wellington on Tuesday night to find this all over the news. Saw a disgustingly self-righteous Susan Wood 'interviewing' the parents in the police station. I thought the tabloid TV was bad in Australia. Jesus Christ.

3:30 pm  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Really powerful post. You did a great job making their case.

4:54 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

This is a good post. What are the actual statistics for child abuse?

Crime is more prevalent amongst Maori and Polynesians - I think that Sharples and Duff have valid points of view - I can't really know how much Alan Duff's view represents 'reality' - on the one hand it is an attempt to use the tough - be honest approach -on the other it leaves out the problem of why people do what they do (not to "excuse" but to analyse) - he then argues for his books in homes -which is as far as one can see - a good idea -but the social economic problems that have lead to increased violence and so on in NZ are complex and require ultimately a radical change in society but Sharples cant overlook that his own people do get involved in the "Once Were Warriors" syndrome -but this omits the many who are not like this. I recall discussing Duff with a very intelligent publican of local pub who maintained that Duff's book ignored the situation - that there were as many in Pakuranga who committed violent crimes in the home.

There is danger that the liberal left (esp. thsoe who have not worked or lived amongst these people as I have over many years) overlook that people who are "working class" are not necessarily more "noble" than those who are well to do...I have lived in Otara etc and the situation there is not good - but perhaps not as bad as it is portayed - in some places it is quite terrible - the murder/crimes against persons rate in my own suburb (Panmure) is very high. Much higher than that in Remuera -in some cases people are poor examples -the question is - how do they become this way? - It is not limited to Maori and Pacific Islanders however (that is the crux). Nor, on the other hand, does it mean that such people are inherently 'evil' or something. I had many many good examples of people of high moral and great integrity in such areas as Mangere or Otara - but there were also many who were - for various reasons - are not what a conventional moralist would call 'good'...but the problem ultimatly calls back to general social/political/ecomonic questions.

And I can't stand the racists on the talk back stations - so there are many many valid points you make here Maps... and it is timely to oppose the hysteria.

But there is/are a/many problem/s - a big problem in Auckland - in NZ. Violence has increased over time in NZ - I remember when in the 50s and 60s a murder was huge news - now it happens very day.

These crimes of violence etc are not perpetrated by the professional class by and large (of course there is domestic violence amongst such people also but not as much).

We have to look at these things as objectively as possible - it is very human to be emotive about a terrible crime such as killing two children.

2:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maps..you're either smoking crack, or you have no sense of moral code!? Who really cares about the family, when they are blatantly unwilling to name the killer(s). Personally, I would threaten to throw them all in prison with the general population until they start naming names.
This crime wasn't a result of poverty, of circumstance, of race, or of vistimisation. It was just out and out evil. To try and turn it into something else, for your own selfish reasons is simply just wrong.

Ps. I am maori.

11:00 pm  
Blogger iiq374 said...

I agree with their right to tell the journalists to sod off.
To close ranks and not tell the police whatever they know is obstruction of justice and inexcusable regardless of race or income.

8:44 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the Kahui whanau alone" : huh? Someone killed two babies, and isn't owning up to it, and you say leave them alone? I see your sympathy isn't with the weakest, but those who would seek to cover up two innocent deaths. This isn't about race or class, it's about doing what is right and doing what is very clearly wrong.

3:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good grief.... What in the hell is wrong with you?? Two babies have been brutally murdered and there are 12 people that are refusing to tell the police what they know about this heinous act. People who would protect child murderers are the scum of the earth and as guilty as those who actually killed these poor children.

Wake up and get a freaking clue, man!!

12:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you stand up and defend a bunch of deadbeat, alcoholic, no-hopers; blowing thousands of taxpayer dollars a week on their pathetic, violent, booze-fuelled lifestyle; contributing absolutely zero to New Zealand society, and now covering up a double child murder?!?!? You and your ilk are the reason NZ society has deteriorated so markedly in the last few years in to a unbelievably violent, intimidating and unsafe one...and the reason we would never go back and live there. And the gutless, useless, PC-hobbled NZ police force does nothing, for fear of offending these worthless savages. Can't suspects can be locked up for deliberately withholding information and hindering a police investigation?!?!

12:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maps...Everyone realises they know more than they are letting on.

This isn't about vicitmisation of the Kahuis. It's about JUSTICE for 2 innocent children.

They know.

What pisses me off the most is the cringing sensation trailer park trash brown scum like the Kahuis give me when I see normal people identifying Maori with them.

I'm Maori, could have easily stepped in the shoes of that family with an extremely poor upbringing myself, and yet my brother, sister and myself all turned out ok. Co-incidence? I don't think so.

It was the scarfifice my solo mother made to make sure we kept in line. She sure as hell wasn't partying on "dole night" for the 20 years it got us independant.

3:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maps...Everyone realises they know more than they are letting on.

This isn't about vicitmisation of the Kahuis. It's about JUSTICE for 2 innocent children.

They know.

What pisses me off the most is the cringing sensation trailer park trash brown scum like the Kahuis give me when I see normal people identifying Maori with them.

I'm Maori, could have easily stepped in the shoes of that family with an extremely poor upbringing myself, and yet my brother, sister and myself all turned out ok. Co-incidence? I don't think so.

It was the scarfifice my solo mother made to make sure we kept in line. She sure as hell wasn't partying on "dole night" for the 20 years it got us independant.

3:29 pm  
Anonymous Rich said...

What a crock of sh*t - how can you stand by and defend a family who won't give evidence to convict the killer/s of two innocent kids. This is about two babies who didn't have an opportunity to have their rights respected. I'm Maori and it disgusts me that this family have not got the decency to do the right thing - send them all to prison if they no the killer/s identity. Shameful bastards.

1:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I know is this....

my firstborn was never ever, NEVER EVER out of either his Mums view, or mine, for more than twenty seconds...for the first three years of his life. His younger brother the same.
And his younger brother.
and his younger brother too.

Their Mum gave up smoking and drinking for six years, until the youngest was three.

I never had a joint or a beer, until they were all safe in their beds.

If all four were not under our roof (the eldest is 12 now), I could not drink, in case of an emergency, if one of them might need our help.


We are responsible for our children, and we need to understand what that responsibility means.

I brought those poor little fuckers into this fucked up world....I should at least be man enough to stand by my decision.

5:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man find the killers. These babies did not even get the chance to make their own mistakes. They didn't get to have their first words, they will never experience love, they will never walk, they will never experience the walk of life. There is more the bloody NZ police should be doing. Is doesn't matter if your black, brown, white, yellow or red this is a murder. Somebody killed these twins and this is where the focus should be!! Being Maori is not the arguement here finding the person or persons involved is the arguement. The parents of these babies should relise hey someone killed your twins. Be parents now and stand up to the plate and do right by your kids. You were blessed and giving the task to nuture,love and care for these kids now someone has taken this priveledge away from you. There are many people who are not blessed with the joy of parenthood. You have the power in your hands to set the record straight and the death of your babies not to be in vain. It's time for you to do something. You will never live a normal life your faces have been planted all over NZ TV. Everywhere you go you will be mocked,spat on,spoken about and even threatened is this the life you wish to lead. The next time you have children you will be watched 24/7. Even the smallest scratch on your next baby, you will be blamed and stories of abuse will again fly around even if it's not true. And this is the life you choose to live. My advice again Stand tall,Hold your head up,Be strong and let the truth be known!!!!! If the parents aren't to blame then the real murderers should be known. Let them live the life of a Child Killer! Set yourselves and your hearts and minds free for they might have been babies but until you speak you will forever be condemned

6:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am from a Kahui whanau but no relation to this family. My mother (based in Auckland)was found in the white pages by many news reporters wanting to know what happened! Mum had to explain time & time again she was no relation & to stop calling her house..in the end she changed her number. Unfortunately child abuse is so common, unemployed adults have nothing to do (due to no or low employment/or bearing young children) so they wait for their dole/benefit and drink it all away. However, i believe no one is responsible for their child(ren) but their PARENTS. If a child runs away, the parents will search until they are found. If a child gets hurt, its the parents who will wipe away their tears. If a child is hungry, it is the parents who will feed them. Whether the neighbor, the shop keeper or the teacher made these childeren to suffer , it is the parents who shall suffer the consequences too..Regardless !! May god bless their hearts & hope they suffer no more - they are probrably in a much safer place than they ever were.

9:54 pm  
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2:01 am  
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9:23 am  

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