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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

No mana in police raids

Hone Harawira isn't backing away from his attacks on the police and the government over last week's raid on Ruatoki and the arrests of Maori and environmental activists.

Fellow MPs attacked his speech during the debate of the Protected Disclosures Act, when he urged Maori officers to blow the whistle on their police superiors for making fraudulent allegations of terrorism and ordering the use of force against innocent citizens and children.

The Taitokerau MP says he's speaking for the people who voted for the Maori Party to be in Parliament.

He's also rejecting suggestions he is demeaning the mana of the police.

“There is no mana smashing into people’s homes dressed in black with your face covered in a mask. I don’t think there is any mana in that, and I won’t be apologizing for what I said in the house yesterday,” Mr Harawira says.

He says the raids were a threat to Maori society, Maori thinking and to everything Maori hold dear.

MAORI HIV STATS CAUSE DEBATE

There's division over whether a spike in the number of Maori becoming infected with HIV is a trend or a statistical blip.

In the first six months of this year, 11.4 percent of HIV notifications were Maori, compared with only 6.4 percent throughout 2006.

The AIDs Foundation says because the overall numbers involved are low, a small change can look like a big leap.

But medical researcher Clive Aspin, a former chair of the foundation, says differences have emerged with indigenous populations around the world, and it could be happening in Aotearoa.

“These are early warning signals and we could ignore them, or we could wait five, 10 years down the track and say ‘Hey, why didn’t we do anything back then?’ And I think that’s the approach we need to be cautious about. We need to be aware that there are possibly differences happening that we need to take stock of,” Dr Aspin says.

HIV-AIDs has gone off the radar screen for many people, but the reality is there is still no vaccine and HIV infection rates are increasing around the world.

HEAD REPATRIATION CHANCE SHRINKS

Te Papa isn't giving up hope of getting a shrunken head returned from a French museum.

The new French minister of culture is trying to block the Rouen Museum returning the Maori head, which it has held since 1875.

Christine Albanel says the precedent it sets could threaten the integrity of France's national heritage.

Paul Brewer, Te Papa's head of communications, says the Museum of New Zealand takes a long term view of negotiating repatriation of heads and other human remains.

“This particular one was an offer from the Rouen Museum to Te Papa. We didn’t approach them, and they approached us as recently as July this year, so in terms of the timeframes for negotiating repatriations, it’s a pretty early days yet,” Mr Brewer says.

BUS SEARCH STORY STUCK BY

A Tuhoe elder say the tribe is standing by its view that armed police searched a kohanga reo bus.

Police have denied the incident happened during last week's lock-down of Ruatoki following raids on suspected terrorism suspects.

But Tamati Kruger, who was caught up in the police roadblock, says Tuhoe trust their own witnesses before the police.

“From our account the kohanga reo driver and the people on the bus are quite adamant to their statement that the kohanga reo bus was stopped at a checkpoint and an armed policeman boarded the bus, asked them all to leave, that person was armed, and then searched the bus. We will all quarrel over that point,” Mr Kruger says.

The people of Ruatoki have been overwhelmed by the support from people around the country in the wake last week's police raids.

The small eastern Bay of Plenty township may have been singled out for attention because it is on the doorstep of the Urewera ranges, where police allege activists held military style training camps.

HIGH RATE OF ABUSE AMONG MAORI GIRLS

An Auckland University study has found Maori girls are more likely to be sexually abused as children than non-Maori.

The Violence Against Women study interviewed almost 3000 women from the Auckland and Waikato region about their experiences of violence.

Researcher Janet Fanslow says about a third of Maori women reported childhood sexual abuse, compared with one in five non-Maori.

She says there need to be more programmes to address the problem.

“Some of the things we ought to do about it may be figuring out ways we can supervise our children. Some of it might be around rehabilitation of people who are known sexual abuse offenders. Some of it needs to be around activities of how do we prevent it happening in the first place,” Dr Fanslow says.

AIDS FOUNDATION SAYS STATS A BLIP

The AIDs Foundation says there is no cause to panic over an increase in the proportion of those newly-infected with HIV being Maori.

In the first six months of 2007, just over 11 percent of new notifications came from Maori, compared with 6.4 percent last year.

Tariana Turia, the Maori Party's health spokesperson, says it's an early warning that should not be ignored.

But Rachael Le Mesurier, the foundation's executive director, says the numbers of people in New Zealand with HIV are actually extremely low.

“That means a small change can look over a very brief period of time like a large leap. If we step back and look over a couple of years, it’s not uncommon to see those numbers readjust so it is most important we don’t react to what looks like a trend until we know it is or isn't,” Ms Le Mesurier says.

New Zealand is one of the few countries where the indigenous population is not over-represented in HIV infection rates.

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