No Profit In Prisons – Sina Brown-Davis speaks against the prison industry

*Te Wharepora Hou member Sina Brown-Davis speaks at the NO TO SERCO rally at Mt Eden Prison on Saturday 01 August 2015*

Photo courtesy of Jos Wheeler.

Photo courtesy of Jos Wheeler.

Tēnā koutou ki ngā iwi kua huihui mai nei. Kei konei ahau ki te taha o te rōpu Te Wharepora Hou. Kei konei ahau me te hunga e whakahē ana ki ngā whareherehere. Ko Sina Brown-Davis ahau nō Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara.

I am like many gathered here today, the family of a loved one inside. I refused to be ashamed of having a father as a prisoner, even though my dad is incarcerated, I will stand by him and love him unconditionally always. Prisoners are human beings, with human rights, I am sick of the sadistic and vengeful attitude that this country has towards prisoners. I am sick of a racist and punitive system that has resulted in the mass incarceration of Māori, of Pacific Islanders and of working class Pākehā.

I am sick of a government that chose to do a deal with Serco, despite their serial human rights abuses, and fraudulent mis-management. Serco have a disgraceful record world wide of neglecting their duty of care, to make money off the backs of the oppression of prisoners, refugees and those seeking asylum. We warned you that serco were nasty pricks only interested in making money. We warned you that Serco’s management of this prison would be a shambles We warned you that privatisation would be a complete and utter failure.

Last week prisoner Arthur Taylor and others had their case for the voting rights of prisoners upheld by the high court. This was a watershed moment in the fight for the human rights of prisoners. Prisoners and their families are fighting for the right to be treated like human beings with human rights and are winning!

For those who say that Iwi should be running prisons, I strongly disagree. Iwi-run prisons just transfer the punitive functions of the state to Māori. Running prisons is leveraging off the oppression of our people. Iwi have no ethical or cultural standing in investing in the ongoing oppression of our people. The investment needs to be in changing the lock-down mentality of the existing system. Dress it up any way you like the mass incarceration and locking up of our people in cages is not a solution for anything, Māori run or otherwise. I would like to end with a quote from prison abolitionist Angela Davis:

“Imprisonment has become the response of first resort of far too many of the social problems that burden people who are ensconced in poverty. These problems often are veiled by being conveniently grouped together under the category “crime” and by the automatic attribution of criminal behavior to people of color. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages. But prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings. And the practice of disappearing vast numbers of people from poor, immigrant, and racially marginalized communities has literally become big business. It ought to be possible to build movements in defense of prisoners’ human rights and movements that persuasively argue that what we need is not new prisons, but new health care, housing, education, drug programs, and jobs. To safeguard a democratic future, it is possible and necessary to weave together the many and increasing strands of resistance to the prison industrial complex into a powerful movement for social transformation.”

Nō reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa!

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Dr Mera Lee-Penehira on Radio Waatea: US commits war crimes in Hawai’i

Dr Mera Lee-Penehira

Dr Mera Lee-Penehira

Dr Mera Lee-Penehira has lodged a formal complaint to the Attorney General of New Zealand Hon Christopher Finlayson. She alleges that Hawai’i have had war crimes committed against them and that it is now time for the New Zealand government to right this wrong. Yesterday Dr Mera Lee-Penehira spoke with Dale Husband on Radio Waatea in this interview.

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New Zealand Citizen Reports War Crimes In Hawai’i

New Zealand Citizen Reports War Crimes In Hawai’i

Dr Mera Lee-Penehira

Dr Mera Lee-Penehira

Dr Mera Lee-Penehira, from the University of Auckland, has this week lodged a criminal complaint with Attorney General Christopher Finlayson QC, under the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act 2000.

“The U.S. unilaterally seized the islands of Hawai‘i back in 1898 for military interests during the Spanish-American war, and have remained there as illegal occupiers ever since. This is about acknowledging and righting the wrongdoings of the U.S. in Hawai’i”, says Dr Lee-Penehira.

A recent visit from leading political scientist Dr Keanu Sai of the University of Hawai’i who met with tribal and political leaders, has brought to the fore the illegal occupation of Hawai’i, and the implications for New Zealand. He states that, “In 2001, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, acknowledged that, in the nineteenth century the Hawaiian Kingdom existed as an independent State recognized as such by the United States of America, the United Kingdom and various other States. By virtue of the 1851 treaty between the Hawaiian Kingdom and the British Crown, as well as our connection as peoples of the Pacific, New Zealand citizens have a special relationship with Hawai‘i.”

Dr Lee-Penehira, has been to Hawai’i on a number of occasions in recent years, and last month visited Mauna a Wakea, a sacred site at the centre of contention between the U.S. government and Native Hawaiians. The planned construction of the world’s largest telescope, the TMT project, on this sacred site, has received much media attention of late and many New Zealand citizens are concerned about this issue.

Marama Davidson, member of Maori women’s political advocacy group Te Wharepora Hou states, “Protectors of Mauna a Wakea have been occupying the sacred ancestral mountain on the island of Hawai‘i for over 120 days now, to prevent the construction of this telescope. We stand in solidarity with the protectors in efforts to stop this destruction. This is a direct attack on the physical, spiritual and cultural integrity of the maunga, and the wellbeing of both the environment and people.”

In lodging the complaint Dr Lee-Penehira is invoking her right as a New Zealand citizen under the 1851 treaty, “We need to challenge everything the U.S. government does in Hawai‘i, because on the basis of law, it is quite simply wrong. The historical documentation is clear, that the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist under an illegal occupation by the U.S. and that the laws of occupation must be complied with. As a victim of war crimes committed in Hawai‘i, this cannot be allowed to continue to take place with impunity.”

The alleged war crimes at the centre of the complaint include both unlawful taxation by the State of Hawai‘i, and the destruction of property by the State of Hawai’i for allowing the construction of telescopes on the summit of Mauna a Wakea.

Ms Davidson supports the complaint saying, “These allegations of war crimes committed in Hawai‘i are very serious, and if true will have a profound effect on all New Zealanders as well as the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations that are ironically taking place this week in Hawai‘i. It is now incumbent on New Zealand authorities to either prove that the Hawaiian Kingdom does not exist under international law and that there is no Hawaiian-British treaty, or initiate a criminal investigation into the allegations of war crimes committed against a New Zealand citizen.”








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Hawai’i: An American State or a State under American Occupation?


Dr Mera Penehira (Ngati Raukawa ki Otaki, Rangitaane, Ngai Te Rangi)

Dr Keanu Sai, Political Scientist of Hawai'i

Dr Keanu Sai, Political Scientist of Hawai’i

Press Release Tuesday 14th July

Dr. Keanu Sai, political scientist from the University of Hawai‘i is visiting Aotearoa this week to meet with tribal and political leaders regarding the assertion that Hawai‘i is under an illegal occupation by the U.S. and the implications this has for Aotearoa/New Zealand. Dr. Sai states that in 1898 “the United States unilaterally seized the Hawaiian Islands for military interests during the Spanish-American War and has since maintained an illegal and prolonged occupation of Hawaii, an independent and neutral State, which has resulted in the commission of war crimes at a colossal scale”.

Receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Dr. Sai’s research focused on Hawai‘i’s legal and political history since the 18th century to the present, and highlighted the illegal occupation of Hawai‘i by the United States. Dr. Sai currently lectures at the University of Hawai‘i Windward Community College and does consultant work.

Te Wharepora Hou member, Dr. Mera Lee-Penehira is co-ordinating Dr. Sai’s visit, which will include meeting with student and community groups also. According to Dr. Lee-Penehira “this affords us the opportunity to greater understand the realities of the illegal occupation of Hawai‘i, as well as to reawaken ourselves to the treaty relationship between Hawai‘i and Aotearoa. This has major implications for us. Our political leadership need to take notice and be ready to inquire into the legal status of Hawai‘i under international law and its economic, political and legal implications to Aotearoa and its citizenry.”

This millennium has uncovered new understandings of what has happened in Hawai‘i. As Dr. Sai states, “In 2001, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, acknowledged that, ‘in the nineteenth century the Hawaiian Kingdom existed as an independent State recognized as such by the United States of America, the United Kingdom and various other States.’”

However, the US continues its illegal occupation, abuse of human rights and desecration of sacred lands. Te Wharepora hou have maintained their stance of solidarity with native Hawaiian peoples who presently struggle for the continued protection of Mauna a Wakea. Dr. Lee-Penehira advises, “Protectors of Mauna a Wakea have been occupying the sacred ancestral mountain on the island of Hawai‘i for over 100 days now, to prevent the construction of the world’s largest telescope; the planned Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) project. This is a direct attack on the physical, spiritual and cultural integrity of the maunga and the wellbeing of the Hawaiian People and the generations to come. Dr. Sai and I will be joining other supporters of Mauna a Wakea in a dawn ceremony of solidarity on Saturday morning here in Auckland.”

It is time, as Dr. Sai states, for the world to understand “the violation of human rights and war crimes that continue to take place on a grand scale whilst hidden under a cloak of deception and lies. These abuses are now coming to the forefront”.

Media Contacts:
1. Dr Mera Lee-Penehira (Aotearoa) +64 21 478194
2. Dr Keanu Sai (Hawai‘i) 00 1 808 383 6100

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To the whanau and friends of Cindy George and her three babies

To the whanau, friends and community of Cindy George and her babies Pio, Teuruaa and Telyzshaun.
My family and I send you nothing but aroha and manaaki to help you all heal from this tragic and accidental loss. I am simply a mum with my own children who never wants to experience this loss that you are all bearing.
A loving mother and three beautiful babies taken suddenly is more profoundly sad than any words I can muster.
I hope all their memories are honoured with nothing but love albeit the sadness.
I don’t know if you’ll see this message. I hope you only see kind messages. We are thinking of you with broken hearts and hope that peace finds its way to your lives.

Marama and whanau xxx


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Maori and Hawaiians Unite to Stop Desecration of Ancestral Lands of Hawaii

Maori and Hawaiians Unite to Stop Desecration of Ancestral Lands of Hawaii


 Maori women’s collective, Te Wharepora Hou, today affirm solidarity with their Hawaiian brothers and sister’s efforts to protect ancestral lands. ‘Protectors of Mauna a Wakea’ have been occupying Mauna a Wakea, a sacred ancestral mountain on the island of Hawaii during recent weeks to prevent the construction of the world’s largest telescope; the planned Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) project.

“The TMT project is a direct attack on the physical, spiritual and cultural integrity of Mauna a Wakea. These actions are an attack on the wellbeing of the Hawaiian People and the generations to come. Something Maori and indigenous people understand and have struggled against in our movement for self-determination”, says Te Wharepora Hou member Dr Mera Penehira.

Ka’uhane Lee, Hawaiian educator explains “What needs to be realized here with the strong efforts to protect sacred Mauna a Wākea, and all sacred sites in Hawaiʻi is that any desecration of our ancestral lands and natural resources are like pulling the plug on our life support. Our cultural and spiritual traditions, practices and teachings of caring for all things of life are what feed us and keep us alive and healthy on all levels of our being.”

She states “Another serious matter we are dealing with is the fact that Hawaiʻi is illegally occupied by the United States. Unfortunately, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is part of the U.S. system which makes it difficult for some trustees to take an honest, strong stance to advocate for the majority of people who are against the TMT and to resist and oppose these destructive plans.”

Hawaiian Kingdom representative, Dr Keanu Sai echoes these concerns. He is concerned with the legalities associated with past and present acts of land desecretation in Hawaii. He explains, “Right now everything that is done on Mauna Kea is in violation of international law and the laws of occupation. Meaning it is the Hawaiian government, its nationals, its agencies that make that determination, not a foreign entity”.

The opposition movement is experiencing success.  Firstly all construction of the telescope has been halted at this point. On May 1st there was also a significant back down by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) who rescinded their original support for the project. Although a step in the right direction, many have argued that OHA should have gone further and made a clear statement of opposition to the TMT project

Te Wharepora Hou will continue to support the people of Hawaii in protecting ancestral lands and joins the call of other Indigenous and aboriginal collectives around the globe to raise their voices in opposition.

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Media Contacts:

1. Dr Mera Penehira (Aotearoa)

+64 21 478194

2. Ka’uhane Lee (Hawaii)

(808) 636 1108


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MSD actions perpetuates violence on vulnerable whanau.

We should all be disturbed by the decision from MSD Deputy CEO Murray Edridge to end discussions with Relationship Aotearoa in regards to the ongoing provision of counselling support to over 7,000 people across the country. Over 2,500 of those are Maori.   There needs to be questions asked as to where the CEO Brendan Boyle has been throughout this whole debacle. We have been fed a diet of misinformation about the state of play in regards to Relationships Aotearoa. It is important to understand that officials have clearly been providing Minister Tolley with incorrect information as to both the financial viability of the organisation and processes to ensure the wellbeing of those 7,000 people, many of whom are in positions of high vulnerability. To give clearer information the following press release was provided last week by Acting Chair of Relationships Aotearoa, Dr Jane Allison:

“While Relationships Aotearoa continues talks with Ministry officials today (May 21), it is worth considering what the community might lose”, says Dr Jane Allison, Interim Chair of Relationships Aotearoa (RA).
“RA is into year 2 of a 3 year strategy which aligns to government goals focussed on vulnerable children, families and whanau and breaking the cycle of family violence.
“Other Non Government Organisations (NGOs) are trying to catch up, but all are struggling with old style contracts that don’t focus on client outcomes, and there is an expectation that clients or philanthropic donors will subsidise cost of service delivery.
“Performance information shared amongst officials and NGOs shows RA clinicians spend upwards of 60% of their time with clients compared to Child Youth and Family Services (CYFS) who achieve less than 30% of face to face time with clients.
“Other NGOs can’t match the investment in systems and clinical practice RA has achieved to date. In fact Minister Tolley acknowledged that RA is “ahead of the game””, says Dr Allison.
“Furthermore, we have also learnt that Ministry officials were working under the assumption that RA was closing, and no service continuity for clients was planned”, she says.
“We know RA staff continue to work hard and are maintaining their professionalism under highly stressful and uncertain conditions.
“We hope to have an answer for clients, staff and all those who have supported us soon”.

Dr Jane Allison
Relationships Aotearoa Chair
027 722 6966

So one has to ask why MSD have moved so ruthlessly today and denied the opportunity for a longer term smooth transition process where those people who are served by the organisation have their needs clearly met. Where there may well be areas of development that Relationships Aotearoa need to address there are significant contributions by the organisation that will be lost in this action, including the most effective and up to date Client Management system. Those developments and contributions need to be given the opportunity to be carefully managed in any change process. It is significant that MSD cut negotiations so abruptly and the question needs to be asked whether officials have done some form of back door deal with other groups that are deemed more palatable to them. This would not be surprising it would however been unethical.

MSD need to be held more accountable for their lack of insight in terms of enabling transition for those individuals and whānau whose needs are currently served by Relationships Aotearoa. Their wellbeing should be first and foremost in any process. For MSD to end negotiations and to abruptly put and end to those services is unacceptable and Minister Tolley should be intervening and calling to task both the absent CEO and the Deputy CEO for their inability to provide for the needs of our whānau and communities. Also today Waikato Social Services also had MSD move in and suspend funds for 2 months.  So what happens to the people being served by that Provider?  To not provide for the needs of those who are being served by these two organisations is not only unethical and immoral but it is an act of state violence upon many of our community who are already experiencing hardship.  Irrespective of what is happening at an organisational level we must ensure that the needs of the individuals, whanau and communities who are receiving support from these services be the priority focus. Cutting off that support will have much longer term impacts on their wellbeing.

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