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Monday, August 15, 2011

RIP: Paul Reeves

Sir Paul will always be known primarily as the first Maori Governor-General, and although the mixing of religion and state is not to my taste he was a great leader and statesman as will be attested to in the course of his Tangi and State Funeral. The NZ Herald touches upon some elements of his character:

Sir Paul was the son of a tram driver in the working-class Wellington suburb of Newtown. Although he did not grow up around things Maori, that did not stop him from making a contribution later in life.

He was a foundation member of the team that completed the $25 million Port Nicholson Block Treaty settlement in Wellington.

When Parliament approved it in 2009, the Crown apologised, but Sir Paul replied with a statement of forgiveness, the first of its kind made by tribes that had settled.

Sir Ngatata said that gesture said much about Sir Paul's faith and character. "The way he thought was if someone you know humbles themselves, then people must be dignified and say, 'We now move on'."

A political activist, Sir Paul threw his weight behind the Citizens for Rowling campaign which unsuccessfully sought to get Prime Minister Bill Rowling re-elected in 1975, and he opposed the 1981 Springbok tour.

In 1987, he criticised Labour for the effects of Rogernomics, reforms which he believed were making society more stratified.
In 2004, he said renouncing his knighthood would be worth a New Zealand republic.

More controversially he was involved in the post-coup Fijian (re)constitution where the tenets of an ethnically-based power-sharing arrangement was fleshed out. The order has since broken down and the current military regime has abrogated the constitution entirely. This is one of his little known legacies:

From Wikipedia: Reeves went on to chair the Fiji Constitution Review Commission from 1995 until 1997, culminating in Fiji's readmission to the Commonwealth, until its suspension in 2000. On 12 December 2007 it was reported that Reeves was involved with "secret talks" to resolve Fiji's year-long political crisis, following the 2006 Fijian coup d'├ętat.


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