WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Police raids could lead to prison

As Wel-com goes to print on Tuesday, 30 October, the Dominion Post reports that the Police have moved closer to bringing terrorism charges against 17 people arrested in raids around the country.

The paper reports that the Police have referred evidence to the Solicitor-General, David Collins, after a year-long investigation into alleged weapons-training camps.

The raids began in mid-October and focused on ‘ringleader’ Tame Iti of Tuhoe. Auckland priest Terry Dibble gives a historic view of Tame Iti.

I first came to know Tame Iti during the Springbok Tour of 1981. Tame was with me on the ground at Rugby Park in Hamilton when the game was called off. He is a gentle and considerate man who is deeply committed to the welfare of Māori people. He is a master of the grand, dramatic gesture, but in no way is committed to violence against other persons.

It may well be that Tame and others who have been subjected to police raids have unlicensed firearms, as many others do. To construe from this that they are people planning an armed uprising is nothing short of bizarre. There may well be an informal network of people committed to the Māori struggle, some of whom go on camps in the Ureweras. There are also people who go into the Woodhill forest north of Auckland and simulate war games. They wear military-style fatigues and track each other through the bush. I wonder whether the SIS monitors their activities. If they are Māori then perhaps they could be classified as a threat to society.

I cannot help feeling that the SIS is a little short of legitimate targets for consideration when their investigations focus on vaguely discontented Māori. The secrecy surrounding the Court cases arouses the suspicion that the allegations are based on flimsy evidence. I am reminded of the hysteria surrounding the Waitangi Action Committee in the early 1980s. They were a group of young, urbanised, disgruntled Māori who campaigned for the recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi. They were painted by the media as dangerous rebels likely to cause major conflict in our society. In fact, most of what they were saying is now recognised as genuine grievance, much of which has been addressed. Likewise for members of the Ngati Whatua tribe who in 1977 protested at the usurpation of their turangawaewae at Bastion Point, and occupied the land for 507 days. Today everyone agrees that Bastion Point rightfully belongs to Ngati Whatua.

An elderly gentleman at the end of my street came to me earlier this year asking if I could help him dispose of two unlicensed antique guns. He had a letter from the police demanding that he pay the licence fee or suffer reprisal. We sold the guns to a gun shop. I wonder whether his name had been passed on to the SIS.

Terry Dibble is a priest of the Auckland Diocese and was a leader in protests against the 1981 Springbok Tour.

Wel-com will publish more comprehensive analysis of this issue in the December edition.