CHRIS SKELTON / THINGS / Things
Ōpōtiki councilor Louis Rapihana says he will send a complaint to Meng Foon, commissioner for racial relations (pictured).
A councilor will file a complaint with the racial relations commissioner after his use of the Maori language to carry out a karakia at a Gray Power meeting was considered an “insult”.
Rappōtiki councilor Louis Rapihana said he was angry with comments in a bulletin published after the Whakatāne Gray Power meeting he spoke at the end of last year.
“I will follow it further … I will send a complaint to race relations commissioner Meng Foon,” Rapihana said.
In the bulletin, Siva Panadam, a member of Gray Power, apologized to attendees saying “she had no idea Louis Rapihana didn’t speak English.”
He added that “I would have gotten someone to interpret considering that 90% of the attendees were not Maori” [sic].
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The bulletin went on to say that if Rapihana’s use of te reo was “deliberate”, then it was “an insult” to two speakers invited to the event who were not Maori.
Panadam told Local Democracy Reporting that he did not believe his comments were racist and Rapihana should have translated his speech into English.
Rapihana learned of the bulletin after a concerned member of Gray Power sent it to the Ōpōtiki district council office anonymously.
“They thought I should see what was written about myself because I was racist and they didn’t agree with it,” he said.
“It was so bad that I really had to leave it, and then go back and make sure it was reading right. For me, it’s absolutely disgusting.
“In the end, it was just karakia. I was asked to open and close the meeting, which is natural for me, and of course I did it to my inmate. I don’t translate my prayers because it’s not up to people to hear them; it’s just for the man above, ”Rapihana said.
The article was not only “racist and offensive,” but simply the bad manners and not the way to treat a guest guest, he said.
At that time, no concerns were raised about his use of the inmate tea at the meeting.
Since posting comments on her Facebook page on Tuesday, Rapihana said she had received incredible support thanking her.
He said he would never attend any other Gray Power meetings and would now file the complaint with the Race Relations Office.
Panadam said he had no problem with the Maori language and has taken prisoner classes, but felt that 90% of the people at the meeting did not speak of prisoner, Rapihana should have translated his words.
“You should translate what you say, it’s just being polite,” he said.
“There are Maori members in Gray Power and I asked them if they thought (the bulletin) was racist and they told me no.”
Panadam says many people have thanked him for highlighting the problem.
When asked why he did not raise the issue with Rapihana at the meeting, Panadam said it would be the place of the Gray Power chairman to request a translation and there was no time to raise it.
“It wasn’t done with malice or anything, it just highlighted one point,” he said.
“I have no problem talking to you. I have nothing against you. I just wanted to tell him that a lot of people don’t talk to you. If you want to thank the guest speakers, you should thank them in a language they understand. ”
Mawera Karetai, a rights activist for Whakatāne Māori, said she was “upset” to read the newsletter, but would like the opportunity to meet with Gray Power to educate them on the use of criminal tea.
“When did Gray Power become a white power? To put it in context, I would like to remind people that when Europeans came to New Zealand, the majority of the population spoke te reo.
“Instead of learning the language, Europeans, through colonization, forced the Maori to speak English.
“We have spent the last 200 years fighting for our right to speak. Keep in mind that Europeans have also had 200 years to learn tea, ”he said.
Karetai said he felt the author of the piece had to be really disconnected from the local community, which was about 50% Maori, and the comments were “arrogant” in that they placed English above you.
He said it was horrible to suggest that someone could not speak their mother tongue in their home country.
“Shame on them.”