Rawiri Waititi interjected while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was taking questions from lawmakers on Wednesday, accusing the country’s opposition party of “racist propaganda and rhetoric.”
After a tense exchange with the Speaker, which resulted in his microphone being turned off, Waititi began the traditional Māori haka and was asked to leave.
The interruption came while Judith Collins, the leader of the right-wing opposition New Zealand National Party, was putting questions to Ardern on indigenous sovereignty.
Collins’ party has been critical of Ardern over the issue and has opposed the recently announced Māori Health Authority — which Ardern’s government created to redress inequalities in the nation’s healthcare service — according to CNN affiliate RNZ.
“Over the past two weeks, there has been racist propaganda and rhetoric towards tangata whenua,” Waititi said during his first point of order on Wednesday, using a Māori term that refers to New Zealand’s indigenous population. “That not only is insulting, but diminishes the manner of this House.”
The Speaker responded that he felt nothing out of order had been said during the weekly Question Time debate, in which Collins was quizzing Ardern. “I’m asking the member to make sure that if he has a point of order, it is a fresh and different one,” the Speaker later added, as Waititi refused to take his seat.
“Fresh and different point of order, Mr. Speaker,” the Māori Party co-leader replied.
“When it comes to views of indigenous rights and indigenous peoples, those views must be from indigenous people … they can’t be determined by people who are not indigenous,” he said, criticizing a “constant barrage of insults” toward the population.
During that exchange, Waititi’s microphone was turned off. “The member’s mic is off so he will resume his seat,” the Speaker said. In response, the politician began the haka before quickly being ordered to leave.
Māori, who make up about 15% of New Zealand’s population, were dispossessed of much of their land during Britain’s colonization of the country. Thousands of Māori have protested for civil and social rights in recent years, and have criticized governments for failing to address social and economic inequalities.
In February, Ardern’s government announced plans for a national syllabus on Māori history. Ardern also appointed the country’s first indigenous female foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, in November last year.