By: NOLAN PAGE
On Wednesday, February 10, New Zealand removed its rule that male MPs in Parliament were required to wear a necktie.The reason given for this rule was to promote “appropriate business attire,” This comes after MP Rawiri Waititi, an MP the Maori Party that represents the interests of the indigenous Maori people, was ejected from Parliament the previous day after wearing a hei tiki, a traditional piece of Maori business attire around his neck instead of a tie.
After arriving in Parliament, Waititi tried twice to ask a question, but was stopped both times by Speaker Trevor Mallard who ejected Waititi after the second time he tried to ask saying, “I do not recognise the member, he will now leave the chamber.”. Mallard has said that personally he disagrees with the tie requirement, but still upheld the rules. Waititi had objected to the necktie requirement on several previous occasions, calling them a “colonial noose” that would not let him “sing my song.”
The event quickly gained media attention and led to a committee meeting in which the MPs of Parliament listened to the cases of members of the Maori Party. By the end of the meeting, the committee voted to remove the tie requirement and other male MPs have since shown their support of Waititi by showing up to Parliament without wearing ties.
This series of events has sparked a conversation about the treatment of Indiginous people and the way they have been forced to meet the standards of colonizers, not only in New Zealand, but around the world. Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardin said, “I don’t think New Zealanders care about ties,” expressing that even though she doesn’t agree with the necktie requirement in Parliament, she feels there are more important issues that should be dealt with in Parliament, but Waititi stated as he was being ejected from Parliament, “It’s not about ties, it’s about cultural identity.”
Since being elected in October 2020 when he became the first Maori Party member of Parliament since 2017, Waititi has been fighting for the rights of Maori people in New Zealand and seeks to lift discriminatory colonial standards. To him and the Maori Party, this victory is a step towards creating a country where the indiginous people are at home and empowered in their own land.
Waititi declared this in his first speech to Parliament in December, stating, “Mr Speaker, Maori have had enough of being assimilated and forced to do and look like everyone else. We are not like everyone else. We are unique. Being Maori is like having superpowers. There is no-one else in the world like us, and we need to maintain who we are.”