As the world watches the final days of the Presidency of Barak Obama and wonders how his successor Donald Trump will handle the inauguration as 45th President of the United States, word is coming through of boycotts by musicians and other dignitaries being planned to mark it. And as I along with others watch from afar as they gather steam, it is time to turn our attention to the boycott by a leading New Zealander of commemorations at the birth place of New Zealand.
Prime Minister Bill English said that he was not interested in going to Waitangi for the Waitangi Day celebrations on 06 February 2017. When journalists asked him what his reasoning was for not going, he put forward that he was not allowed to speak at the Powhiri. Mr English then went on to say that he found this disrespectful.
Mr English clearly does not understand the purpose of the Powhiri. It is here that one accepts the welcome laid down in the spirit that it was. It is not a place or time for political discussion. It is also not true that he was denied a chance to speak. After the Powhiri the various dignitaries on the Marae are offered speaking slots. Mr English was one of those who was offered a slot.
Yes there have been protests there in the past and there was the possibility of more happening at Waitangi Day 2017. Yes some of these such as the throwing of the wet t-shirt at the Queen, the throwing of mud at then Leader of the Opposition Don Brash, were shameful. Yes the scuffles between activists and others was a bad look, but that was then. Nothing has been said about potential clashes or other untoward behaviour in 2017. Indeed, the only untoward thing that has crossed my attention has been Mr English declining an invite that anyone else would consider a major honour.
So, my message is simple Mr English: Go to Waitangi. Not only is are you being misleading about your speaking options on the Marae, you are also doing your Office, your Party and the Government you lead a disservice.