By Rocio Otoya
Sydney, Australia, Feb 16 (EFE).- Among celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the Maori Party proposed New Zealand’s “divorce” from the British Crown to heal wounds left by the colonization of native people, although the movement has currently little support..
Despite being a fully independent country, Queen Elizabeth II of England remains its official head of state, as sovereign of 15 independent states belonging to the Commonwealth, or Commonwealth of Nations, a status of a mostly symbolic nature in which some see traces of past barbarism.
The claim of the Maori Party – a split from the Labor Party that demands more rights for New Zealand’s indigenous population – is related to the Te Tiriti treaty, signed by the British crown and Maori leaders 182 years ago to guarantee the protection of the territorial rights of indigenous peoples.
“If we consider our founding pact as a marriage between the tangata whenua (original peoples) and the (British) Crown, the treaty is the child of that marriage. It is high time that the tangata whenua take full custody,” said Rawiri Waititi, co-leader of the Maori Party, which holds two of the 121 seats in parliament.
Tom Roa, a Maori and expert in indigenous studies at the University of Waikato, told Efe that “the inconsistency of having a head of state domiciled on the other side of the world.”
“I identify with the feeling that much of what has afflicted the Maori people comes from the effects of colonization,” he said about Elizabeth II, who is represented in the oceanic country by the Governor General, Maori Cindy Kiro.
More than 100 years after the signing of the Te Tiriti treaty, the Maori have lost almost all of their land through a mixture of direct confiscation by the British crown, private or government sales, and court decisions, which did not recognize collective ownership.
“The most insidious thing has been the deliberate destruction of our tikanga (culture), and our roots, so many Maori don’t know who they are,” Roa said.
The Maori academic said this translates into the “divorce” these peoples had “from their roots and their traditional ways” and added that “negative statistics abound in Maori health, education, housing, employment, imprisonment and suicide.”
The Maori, who make up 20 percent of New Zealand’s population of more than 5 million, continue to experience institutional discrimination, as well as disproportionately high rates of poverty, incarceration, disease, domestic abuse and suicide, among other problems.
Although Roa said New Zealand’s natives consider they have not been treated with respect by the British monarchy and its representatives, he said he wonders about the consequences of renouncing to the crown.
“What will happen to the Tiriti if there is a divorce? How would the Maori be treated then?” Roa said, adding that it was Elizabeth II who apologized in 1995 to the Maori people for having described them as savages and recognized the negative impact of policies and laws in these towns.
That was one of the 10 visits the queen has made to the country, the first of them in 1953, according to the academic, who was a baby when the monarch then went to the fiefdom of the movement in favor of the Maori king. She walked between the people with the monarch’s daughter Koroki, who would later become queen Te Atairangikaahu, until her death in 2006. EFE