I recently read an article by Anae Arthur Anae, National’s first Pacific Island MP. While it was written about 8 years ago, many of his points strike a chord when thinking about political representation of ethnic communities now.
- He talks about his surprise, as National’s candidate for Auckland Central in 1993, that Pacific people in the seat voted along class and historic lines, rather than for a Pacific Island candidate.
- As a list MP from 1996-1999 he struggled with the challenges of representing the PI community â€“ geographically spread the length of the county, linguistically and culturally diverse.
- His attempts to build cross-party forums with other PI MPs
- The challenge to get Pacific issues understood and prioritised within a party focussed on the “economic situation”
- The PI communities’ disappointment when National dropped him from 19 to 25 of the list “to make sure that the new intake was representative”
Anae tried to represent every Pacific Islander, whether they voted National or not, whether they were Samoan or not, even if they only thing they shared with him was Pacific heritage. At the same time he represented every National voter, everyone who shared his moral views, not to mention everyone in his neighbourhood.
We ask so much of our MPs, we ask them to represent every single one of us, to empathise with us, to understand us, to know where we come from, to be like us. Continue reading “Representing Pacific communities”