Tie down

Māori MP was expelled from New Zealand parliament Question Time for refusing to change hei tiki with tie. Colonial dress code rule is now revised.
Rawiri Waititi
Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi wearing two neck attires at the same time.
Foto: Rawiri Waititi Facebook profile picture

Copenhagen, Denmark (TP)

It may seem like a small victory, but it is not insignificant for members of the New Zealand parliament with indigenous descent.

Until Wednesday week the dress code required male MPs to wear ties when speaking in parliament. Alternatives such as traditional indigenous neckwear were not deemed legitimate.

The rule changed because Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi refused to wear a tie during Question Time on Tuesday this week.

Arguing that his hei tiki, a human formed jade passed down through generations, as ‘Māori business attire,’ Mr. Waititi was still kicked out of House for continuing speaking in Question Time after being warned about the dress code breach, reports New Zealand news outlet Stuff.

Not just a tie

When send off by Speaker Trevor Mallard, Mr. Waititi said, ‘it’s not about ties it’s about cultural identity mate’ on his way out of House.

Mr. Mallard told Stuff that it was regrettable, but he had to enforce the rules and that ‘there’s nothing stopping Rawiri wearing his hei tiki if he wants to, but it’s not an alternative to a tie.’

Later that day, Mr. Waititi elaborated his action in a post on Social Media.

‘I took off the colonial tie as a sign that it continued to colonise, to choke and to suppress out Māori rights that Mallard suggests gives us all equality,’ he writes on Facebook.

‘I have every right to represent my people and reflect their dress, their culture. There is only one indigenous people in this country and it is not a white man from Wainuiomata,’ referring to an earlier statement from Mr. Mallard saying that he regarded himself as an indigenous New Zealander from Wainuiomata.

Mr. Mallard himself supported the idea of changing the parliament’s dress code rules, but deciding not to over the summer break, as an overwhelming majority of those who wrote him did not support the change, writes Stuff.

‘I took off the colonial tie as a sign that it continued to colonise, to choke and to suppress out Māori rights’

Rawiri Waititi

Māori Party co-leader

‘Having considered those views, I have decided that no change in current standards is warranted. Business attire, including a jacket and tie for men, remains the required dress standard, Mr. Mallard said according to The Guardian.

Old colonial rule revised

While the incident spread around international publications, Mr. Mallard led a subcommittee on Wednesday to debate abandoning the tie rule and include the hei tiki as business attire in House, writes The New York Times.

The tie rule got discarded Wednesday evening.

‘The committee did not reach a consensus, but a majority of the committee was in favor of removing the requirement,’ Mr. Mallard stated.

‘As Speaker, I am guided by the committee’s discussion and decision, and therefore ties will no longer be considered required as part of ‘appropriate business attire,’’ he announced according to Stuff.

‘This was never just about a tie. The tie is symbolic of everything that is wrong in this country’

Rawiri Waititi

Māori Party co-leader

Huge satisfaction and a declaration of a win for Māori resonated on Facebook.

‘Thank you all very much for your overwhelming support on this kaupapa. Your kind words and messages means a lot to us,’ Mr. Waititi wrote on Facebook and continued:

‘This was never just about a tie. The tie is symbolic of everything that is wrong in this country. It has always been about pushing back on an agenda of assimilation that is still active in our country. It was always about ensuring the recognition of our right to be Maori in a whare that is half ours.’

‘Today was a win for all Maori. Taking small steps in indigenising parliament the way our tipuna intended; towards the ultimate vision of the liberation of our people,’ his post says on Facebook.

According to The New York Times it was Britain’s colonial rule in New Zealand that first required men to wear ties in House.

The present parliament is the most diverse seen to date in New Zealand with Māori representing 21 percent and Pacific 8,3 percent.

More parliament members have called for allowing to wear cultural interpretations of formal wear in the New Zealand chamber, writes The Guardian.

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The Postcolonial | Copenhagen | CVR: 41032421

Lasse Sørensen (Founding Editor-In-Chief)

Suvi Loponen (Deputy Editor)