Saturday, October 01, 2005

Donna Awatere-Huata refuses to bow before court

In the Auckland District Court September 30, Judge Roderick Joyce jailed former ACT MP Donna Awatere-Huata and husband Wi Huata for defrauding the Pipi Foundation, the organization she set up to promote her five minute reading programme.
Donna was sentenced for 21 months for the frauds and 1 year for obstruction of justice, ie, creating a paper trail to cover up the frauds., a total of 2 years 9 months. Wi was jailed for a year for each crime, so is within the two year limit for home detention to apply.
Listening in the court to the judge's convoluted 90-minute explanation for his tariff, I was struck by a feeling he had written his judgment some time ago and the pleas in mitigation would have no effect.
Former Labour MP Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan said she felt "great aroha because Donna will be standing to be judged like her father before her." , Colonel Pita Awatere, former commander for the 28 Maori Batallion and later a Maori Affairs welfare officer, was jailed for murder in 1968. She spoke on the pressures of being part of a family which is expected to lead, something which requires a lifetime of largely voluntary service.
Te Wananga o Raukawa founder Professor Whatarangi Winiata offered the court some principles which could have allowed for a more creative sentence, pointing to the seal behind the judge with included both Maori and Pakeha. Joyce acknowledged the contribution, but was not going to act on it.
Joyce also noted a written submission from Neville Baker referred to the importance to the Maori community of Pita Awatere, and the way Donna sacrificed her chances of an opera career when he was jailed for murder, giving up a scholarship in London to look after the family.
Joyce noted Awatere-Huata had always led with her chin, but later in his summary criticised her for not showing remorse - a kind of ritual humiliation demanded by judges. If Joyce were to assess the ranks of politicians with his judicial eye, he might find remorse in short supply - saying sorry doesn't get you elected. It also seems somewhat sadistic to demand someone displays weakness before consigning them to an environment where showing weakness may carry enormous risks.
In court to show personal support for Donna were new Maori Party MPs Pita Sharples and Hone Harawira, who have shared many battles with her. The proceedings will be a warning to them of the dangers that MPs can face.
Also on hand were Sir Graham Latimer, Titewhai Harawira, Donna Hall, and a large contingent from the Huata whanau and Ngati Kahungunu.


Blogger Derek Rydall said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:43 PM  
Blogger t selwyn said...

The remorse thing is interesting. I still can't find anywhere information about whether the money taken was returned to the Trust's coffers, because it must have been if there was no reparation order - of which I have found no information.

1:55 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I have spoken to a WWII veteran and he told me that Pita Awatere shot 14 unarmed German POWS. Is there any truth in this allegation?

10:54 AM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

The Maori Battalion was "infamous" for not taking prisoners, for more info you'd probably want to visit the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

A cheque for $55,000 or so, the assessed sum for reparation, was paid in to the court at the sentencing. It didn't seem to have much effect.
As to the POW story, I heard from someone who was in the room at the time that it was one POW, and the incident led to him being relieved of the command. As to the historical accuracy, I haven't scoured the war histories.

1:26 PM  

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