Chong sings ‘orig­i­nal’ only

Taranaki Daily News - - Front Page - Deena Coster

A New Ply­mouth coun­cil­lor pre­vi­ously cen­sured for mak­ing of­fen­sive and di­vi­sive com­ments has posted on Face­book about his ‘‘shame’’ in singing the Ma¯ori ver­sion of the na­tional an­them.

Un­der a post made on Steve West’s Face­book page, which asked peo­ple to ‘‘name a song you are ashamed of singing’’ Mur­ray Chong replied with: ‘‘The te reo ver­sion of the NZ na­tional an­them.’’

West, who alerted Stuff to the Face­book ex­change, then asked Chong if he was threat­ened by it.

‘‘Not at all but I only need to sing the orig­i­nal ver­sion,’’ Chong replied. When ques­tioned fur­ther by West, Chong said it was ‘‘be­cause that’s the orig­i­nal. If we all have to be made to sing the an­them in 2 lan­guages, then the haka should be sung in 2 lan­guages too.’’

Elected as a New Ply­mouth dis­trict coun­cil­lor in 2013, Chong is no stranger to con­tro­versy.

Last month Chong was cen­sured by New Ply­mouth mayor Neil Holdom af­ter pro­claim­ing on ra­dio he had no is­sue fly­ing a Con­fed­er­ate flag dur­ing Taranaki’s Ameri­carna car fes­ti­val.

For some the flag rep­re­sents the her­itage of the Amer­i­can south but for oth­ers, it is a sym­bol of slav­ery and white supremacy.

At the time, Holdom de­scribed Chong’s ac­tions as dis­ap­point­ing and di­vi­sive.

It fol­lows sim­i­lar form in Fe­bru­ary 2017 when Chong was sanc­tioned af­ter he asked whether te reo Ma¯ ori was a dead lan­guage.

Pub­lic crit­i­cism of the Face­book post, as well as four for­mal com­plaints, led to an apol­ogy by Chong, who was found to have breached the coun­cil’s code of con­duct.

When con­tacted about his view on the te reo Ma¯ ori ver­sion of the na­tional an­them, Chong – who de­clined to speak di­rectly but re­sponded via text mes­sage – was un­apolo­getic.

‘‘Firstly, why would any­one have to sing the na­tional an­them again when they have just sung the orig­i­nal ver­sion that they are ac­cus­tomed to,’’ he said.

‘‘And se­condly since be­ing a coun­cil­lor (I) have also no­ticed on many oc­ca­sions other coun­cil­lors that don’t sing it twice and only sing the English ver­sion.’’

He said he felt he was not the only coun­cil­lor to hold these views but seemed ‘‘to be the only coun­cil­lor to state their true opin­ion on how they ac­tu­ally think on this is­sue’’.

When ap­proached, Holdom de­clined to com­ment about his coun­cil­lor’s view on the an­them.

Den­nis Ngawhare, man­ager of Te Wa¯nanga o Aotearoa’s Ran­gia¯ tea cam­pus, said com­ments such as Chong’s were ‘‘un­help­ful’’.

‘‘It’s a sim­ple fact that te reo Ma¯ ori is an of­fi­cial lan­guage in this coun­try.’’

Ngawhare said de­spite this, it was ‘‘al­ways a strug­gle to re­in­force the im­por­tance of te reo Ma¯ ori in na­tional and civic life.’’

He said no-one was be­ing forced to sing the Ma¯ ori lan­guage ver­sion of the an­them, but sus­pected com­ments like Chong’s rep­re­sented the ‘‘tip of the ice­berg’’ re­gard­ing a wider feel­ing some had that te reo was be­ing im­posed on them.

‘‘But for many Ma¯ori, they think English is be­ing im­posed on them. It kind of goes both ways.’’

As a teacher, Ngawhare wanted to share his love of the lan­guage and was al­ways heart­ened by the steady, and in­creas­ing, num­bers of peo­ple en­rolling to learn Ma¯ ori.

But he had also no­ticed an in­creas­ing anti-Ma¯ ori sen­ti­ment on so­cial me­dia, some of which was fac­tu­ally in­ac­cu­rate but also com­ing from a place of bias and prej­u­dice.

‘‘There is very lit­tle we can do ex­cept stand up and put our own feel­ings across.’’

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