Kauamatua threatened with arrest for speaking e reo Māori

Kauamatua threatened with arrest for speaking e reo Māori

Kaumatua Kura Moeahu parliament’s Senior Māori Advisor was threatened with arrest for speaking te reo Māori after a traffic stop in Lower Hutt MāorTV has reported.

It is only when the officer noticed Kura’s jacket had a Police related logo on it that the officer was informed by Kura that he is a Police Māori advisory board member. At this stage the officer had a change of mind.

While I respect the fact that the kaumatua Kura Moeahu is encouraging children to speak in Māori no matter the circumstances, I do believe that this could lead to negative experiences towards the children for speaking Māori when dealing with the police or other people in authority, teachers, police, judges, social workers etc. Personally I had several negative instances as a child for using te reo Māori and know the impacts.

The fact that that the police officer was about to arrest Kura Moeahu until he realised that Kura was an advisory member to the police, concerns me that any member of the public including youth who speak Māori to the police could expect to face being arrested. Kura’s public position, advisory role and ability to reach out to the media and be published all make this story unique and bad luck for the officer involved.

While the Māori Language Act states that Māori is an official language of New Zealand and can be spoken in courts etc, the reality is the legal system and its staff are not bilingual. To speak Māori in a district court, tribunal or high court an application must be made and time given for an interpreter to be present.

This does raise the issue of the fact that we should be able to speak Māori to any New Zealand government employee and be treated with respect, whether that involves an interpreter being called on a phone as could have been done in this instance or front line staff such as police and social workers should take compulsory te reo Māori training.

The rebuttal from the police might be to justify the officers actions as the officer did not understand te reo Māori which was made clear and that it was a waste of police time. Though I would find this offensive and counterproductive while ignoring a larger issue of the need for police to be more culturally sensitive and maybe extra incentives could be introduced for Police to learn te reo Māori.

My preference would be to exercise our treaty right to speak Māori with the Police or any other government employee and to speak Māori first and then English.

Credit: Featured image was sourced from https://www.police.govt.nz/district/waikato/waikato-business-plan-2006.pdf

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