WELLINGTON: Britain’s top diplomat in New Zealand made a low-key “expression of regret” to Maori on Wednesday over deadly clashes that occurred when Captain James Cook’s arrived in New Zealand 250 years ago.

British High Commissioner Laura Clarke travelled to the North Island town of Gisborne for a ceremony with the Maori iwi, or tribes, who Cook met when he landed in October 1769.

The explorer’s arrival sparked a series of skirmishes in the following days that resulted in nine deaths and is still recalled with anger by locals.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust said the ceremony with Clarke was to acknowledge the hara, or atrocities, committed 250 years ago.

“Cook and his crew landed on the banks of the Turanganui river at 4pm, within 30 minutes they had opened fire and (local chieftain) Te Maro was dead,” it said.

“Our whanaunga (relative) was the first casualty of The Collision.” It added: “After only being here for two hours, Cook and his crew had trespassed, terrorised, killed and stolen from us.” The British High Commission issued a brief statement about the event but refused to provide further details, saying it was a “private dialogue between the envoy and the iwi. “The expression of regret responds to a request from the local iwi for this history to be heard and acknowledged,” the statement said.

“The British High Commissioner will acknowledge the pain of those first encounters, acknowledge that the pain does not diminish over time, and extend her sympathy to the descendants of those killed.” Local media reported British officials had “sworn the iwi involved to secrecy” and carefully avoided framing the statement as an apology. However, New Zealand’s race relations commissioner Meng Foon, a former Gisborne mayor, had no such qualms.

“It’s a significant day today... I hope that the apology or message will acknowledge the murder of nine Maori from Turanganui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne),” he told Radio New Zealand.

“I hope they both can move forward and tell our history.” On three epic voyages, Cook helped chart the vast Pacific Ocean more than any other, making him one of the most celebrated explorers of his era.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2019

Opinion

Gaming LNG
Updated 05 Aug 2021

Gaming LNG

What looked like rank incompetence about a year ago is now beginning to smack of malfeasance.
Healing the spirit
05 Aug 2021

Healing the spirit

ROC medal winners could not hear their national anthem being played.
Returning to a repressive order
Updated 04 Aug 2021

Returning to a repressive order

There is no sign of the Taliban showing any flexibility in their position and taking a more moderate stance.

Editorial

A tragic anniversary
Updated 05 Aug 2021

A tragic anniversary

Attempts to change IOK's demography should end and India must open channels with the genuine Kashmiri leadership.
05 Aug 2021

Currency pressure

THE increasing demand for dollars in the wake of surging imports and debt repayments has put significant pressure on...
05 Aug 2021

Protecting breastfeeding

A LOT has been said about the fact that 40pc of children under five years in Pakistan are stunted. The reasons...
PML-N’s dilemma
Updated 04 Aug 2021

PML-N’s dilemma

The road ahead for the PML-N is going to be long and bumpy no matter which narrative it follows.
04 Aug 2021

Attacks on cops

AMIDST cautious optimism that Pakistan may be finally beginning to achieve success in bringing the number of polio...
04 Aug 2021

Myanmar about-face

SIX months into the coup that sent Myanmar’s hybrid civ-mil government packing, the generals have made their...