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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Reflecting on Being Indigenous – Peoples Born of and With Our Lands! In Solidarity!

Speech delivered by Dr Mera Penehira on May 1st 2015 “Stop the forced closure of Aboriginal communities” rally held in Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland).

 … And so we continue to fight for our land, our sea, our rivers, and our birds our children our mothers and fathers. It is a fight to retain them in OUR kaitiakitanga ( in OUR protection), to MAINTAIN them and glorify them as they soooo deserve and as has been done for many generations before US.

 I was recently asked if I would be prepared to put my baby on the line in battle for the land and forced to consider fully my real life politics, my preparedness for battle of a different nature than I am familiar with in everyday speak… WE come of land and people who have fought to still be here. The battles have cost lives; the battles have maintained and retained the life and kaitiakitanga (PROTECTION) of our mother Papatūānuku.

 My response back to the woman who asked the question of life or death of my baby for the land, was to rephrase the question …‘Would I be prepared to put my mother on the line in battle for my baby, OR would I see the death of my mother for the life of my baby?’


The land is OUR mother, she is US, she is OUR baby and to lose Papuatanuku (OUR land) is to ultimately lose all. To lose what is present, past and future. And so my answer is yes, I would fight. YES WE WILL FIGHT … WE WILL fight for OUR babies and WE WILL FIGHT FOR OUR MOTHERS AND GRANDMOTHERS. Because UNDERSTAND THIS: to save Papatūānuku MOTHER EARTH … IS to save pēpi, OUR BABIES and FUTURE GENERATIONS . Would I lose my baby for my mother by choice? Never! “Ko tou uri ka whai mai i ou koutou tapuwae” (our offspring follow in our footsteps). What point is the land if there is no one to walk on her? What point is a mother without children? What point is the battle when those for whom we fight no longer exist? And as I wrote this piece I was reminded of the words of someone else’s rhyme … ‘not to fight is to commit suicide’. We pick up our arms and we fight these battles because we are on a battlefield, whether we like it or not we have been born here in this time that often requires us to be warriors. It is our responsibility to our land, it is our life and we are grateful for her in every respect.

This work we do, this gathering we are all now a part of … It is about: HEART, MIND, BODY and SOUL! From generations before, from lifetimes before … FOREVER we as Indigenous peoples have been a part of our sacred lands, not just connected … WE ARE BORN OF THESE LANDS! TANGATA WHENUA! WE ARE THE LAND AND SHE IS US!

SHAME Australia! To dare try and break this bond!

SHAME Australia! To dare ignore the rights of Indigenous peoples!

SHAME Australia! To dare lay your police physical brutality and abuse on Indigenous peoples!

We Maori stand in solidarity today with our brothers and sisters across the ocean of Te Tai o Rehua!

We stand in solidarity with all of our relations across the globe presently fighting for the protection of their ancestral lands.

Navigating across the ocean of Te Moana Nui a Kiwa … We can this evening, congratulate Kanaka Maoli in Hawaii who stand strong to protect Mauna Kea, and who today witnessed the significant back down of the Office of Hawaiian affairs … who now as a direct result of the Protect Mauna Kea actions, have rescinded their original support for the building of a Thirty Metre Telescope on Mauna Kea. Sovereignty! Rangatiratanga! Although not the FULL endorsement of ‘opposition’ that the people have clearly voted for as is required, it is still a significant move in that direction, and does signal clearly an achievement of the people’s voice, mana and commitment.

Returning closer to home … WHITE AUSTRALIA … YOU DO HAVE A BLACK HISTORY. WE ARE here today to ensure, that this history WILL NOT include the forced closure of Aboriginal communities. We are here to stop cultural genocide. We are here in solidarity for the protection of ancestral lands!

Tihei mouri ora! Tihei mouri tangata! Tihei mouri whenua!

Dr Mera Penehira

Dr Mera Penehira

Dr Mera Penehira

Ngati Raukawa ki Otaki; Rangitaane; NgaiTeRangi

Director Postgraduate and Lecturer

Te Puna Wananga

University of Auckland

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Censorship has no place on Maori Television

The removal of the haka from the Te Iti Kahurangi performance at Te Matatini immediately raised the ire of our people. The hashtag #showthehaka emerged rapidly on Twitter and Facebook entries. Images calling for a return of the haka to its rightful place as a part of the full bracket went viral within hours. Comments flooded social media as to the inappropriateness and political censorship by Māori Television in their decision to edit out the haka.

Political censorship is something that Māori Television has long fought against. From its inception, and as a Board member in the early establishment phase for Māori Television, there has been strong advocacy for the independence of Māori Television to tell Māori stories, to challenge mainstream representations and to seek answers to critical issues facing our people. The key to doing this well, in my view, is telling Māori news, in a Māori way. The questions raised by Te Iti Kahurangi in their haka is that of whether Māori news on Māori television is being told in a Māori way. That is a question that all Māori journalists and broadcasters need to engage. When we speak of what Māori news may look like, rarely do we challenge the fundamental premise upon which the genre of News is based. For example, the idea of News being in palatable bite size chunks of 30seconds to 1 minute remains the dominant form that we see on all channels within Aotearoa. There is little movement away from the dominant established western forms of what counts as News and how News is told.

One major criticism of Māori television News is its persistence with reporting about itself and for utilising its own news programme ‘Te Kaea’ to tell stories about itself, often to defend itself. We have seen this exact issue arise in regards to Te Iti Kahurangi. Not only is the News constructed in ways that minimise the voice of the kapa but also there is a clear privileged position of Māori Television to respond to criticisms of its approach through utilising its own broadcast platform. This is not to say that Māori Television can not make comment, the issue is when it utilises its position of being in control of a national television channel to privilege its own views and responses. This is not the first time that Te Kaea has been ‘used’ by Māori Television management in such a manner.

Another criticism is the inability of Māori Television to apologise in meaningful ways when they are wrong. Accusations against a number of Māori people that have been aired upon Māori Television and then found to be incorrect or misinformed are rarely given the same time or status of apology as the original story. I have seen firsthand people have their reputation and commitment to Te Ao Māori demeaned and belittled due to stories run on Māori Television, and when found to be wrong the channels management has been slow in coming forward, and the apology is often a very brief statement at the end of a news segment. The apology or the correction of the error is rarely given the same status as the report that has discredited a good person.

So how does this relate to the #showthehaka issue?  What it says is that Māori Television have used their ability to control the media to ‘alter’ and ‘suppress’ Māori voices that seek to challenge such behaviours and in doing so Māori Television sought to remove statements that they found to be politically objectionable. Such an action is censorship irrespective of the following view expressed by CEO Paora Maxwell on Te Kaea that “I don’t see it as censoring because we had already broadcast Te Iti Kahurangi’s performance live on Saturday as well as Sunday, so I don’t believe it was censoring.”

The definition of what constitutes censorship is exactly the type of activity that Māori Television practiced in the act of removing the haka. The danger of such behaviour is that it validates the exact form of Māori political censorship that we as Māori have been struggling against for years, and which, alongside the revitalisation of te reo Māori, was a key reason for the establishment of Māori Television. The ability of Māori Television management to make a decision to suppress the views expressed in the haka of Te Iti Kahurangi and to do so with such little awareness of the implications of such actions raises questions about the role of Māori Television to be an independent voice for our people.

The reasoning provided for such actions was reported on Te Kaea through a one to one interview with the CEO. It is noted that when asked why the haka was pulled Mr Maxwell responded,
“When I first heard the words of the haka, to me it belittled and discredited the entire efforts of Māori Television. When I listened to what they were saying, I had to consider as the CEO how it reflected on all our programmes. That was the reason.”

What is interesting about such a statement is that it affirms that when Māori Television, as a broadcaster, is called to question by members of its primary audience – that being Māori people, and Māori speakers –  it can use its editorial power to deny that voice. However, Te Iti Kahurangi do not have the power to deny voice to Māori Television. That is the unequal power relationship that exists, and that is what many commentators have referred to as a misuse of power by the channel.

What this issue has highlighted is the need for Māori Television to develop clear policies and practices in regards to how the channel uses its ability as a Broadcaster to privilege its own views and how it uses the platform as a mechanism for its own interests. We have called TVNZ and TV3 to task for this for many years and now 10 years since the establishment of Māori Television it is time for some serious discussions about Māori representation and what constitutes Kaupapa Māori approaches to news and current affairs. It is time for us to debate how we want Maori news and current affairs to be constructed and how that will meet the interests of seeking transformative outcomes for our people.  We need to have conversations about what we see as important, about what constitutes News and about how we want to represent ourselves.   Until such time as that conversation and debate is undertaken then the potential for Māori Television management to repeat such censorship will remain. So, irrespective of the Māori Television view that the “issue is over” – clearly it is not.

Leonie Pihama

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