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Maori ‘need to be heard’ on euthanasia

A GISBORNE priest wants Maori to look at how legalising euthanasia might impact on cultural protocols or tikanga surrounding death.

Reverend Chris Huriwai is calling on Maori members of parliament to speak to their constituents about the End of Life Choice Bill and the issues that will arise if it is made law.

“Personally I don’t agree with the bill, but it looks to be popular so we are expecting the bill to pass and we accept that.

“My concern is that the select committee will not provide enough Maori voice. That is why MPs need to visit Maori communities and speak to their people.

“So if it does pass, we can change the way we perform tangi (funerals) and important protocols when we mourn.”

Rev Huriwai says the cause of death can influence what happens at a tangi and, in some cases, where the body is buried.

“Sometimes, the body is buried within two days of the death and the tangi process runs differently.

“I know of some cases when Maori who die from suicide are buried outside the burial grounds and, in extreme cases, in the gateway so people walk over the body every time they enter.

“These sorts of things need to be adjusted so that is why our Maori MPs should speak with our people.”

Act MP David Seymour’s euthanasia bill passed its first reading last month.

Just before Christmas Rev Huriwai approached Kiri Allan, Meka Whaitiri, Tamati Coffey and other Maori MPs to ask their reason for supporting the bill.

“I had a pretty robust conversation on twitter with a few Maori MPs.”

“I think their side of the argument is there is no singular stock-standard tikanga, which is true.

“But we do need some idea of what our people want, and if they want this to become law, so we can look at the protocols and traditions of tangi.

“It is a discussion MPs need to have with communities.”

Many of the MPs Rev Huriwai interacted with say they support the bill because they want to hear from experts at the select committee.

Maori views need to be heard.Labour MP for Ikaroa Rawhiti and Minister of Customs and Associate Minister of Crown/Maori Relations Meka Whaitiri says she will encourage constituents to have their say.

”I decided to support the euthanasia legislation to the first reading, as I wish to hear from the experts in this field and those who have had first-hand experience with assisted dying cases.”

“The select committee dealing with the End of Life Choice Bill is the Justice Committee, chaired by Labour’s Raymond Huo.

“Maori members from across the House will have their opportunity to have input into the debates on this Bill.

“I will encourage people around my electorate to make submissions to the select committee by the closing date on February 20.

“I will also make sure I seek the views of the people I represent in Ikaroa Rawhiti.”

She says Maori views need to be heard.

“It is critical that Maori views, particularly cultural views, are taken into account. We have strict tikanga or protocols when we deal with our dead.”

Former Green Party for candidate Ikaroa Rawhiti Dr Elizabeth Kerekere supports the bill and says tikanga changes with the times.

“Our tikanga around death and dying has evolved in this changing world and it will continue to do so.

“We already have karakia to help ease our dying as their wairua releases from its physical and pain-ridden restraints. They know when they are ready to go so who are we to stop that from happening?”

“In this case, the important Maori voices that need to be heard are those kaumatua and whanau who do want this — whanau who have watched someone live in agony and could do nothing about it.

“We are not talking about suicide or murder, and politicians often use that rhetoric to hide the real issue,” she says.

“We definitely need to talk to our people about this so we can find those quiet and suffering voices.”

MAORI VIEWPOINT: Reverend Chris Huriwai wants Maori Members of Parliament to speak to their constituents about the End of Life Choice Bill and the issues that will arise if it is made law. He does not agree with the bill but accepts it will go through. Picture by Liam Clayton