This week the decision was made to pardon the name, memory and legacy of a man who shaped our nation, the Pacific Leaders Forum, and was the force behind much of what we enjoy today as a country – Papa Albert Henry, writes Thomas Wynne.
Forgiveness does not change what was done, or alter the deeds of the past, rather, forgiveness or a pardon alters the future and makes it larger than what it was before, writes Thomas Tarurongo Wynne.
we pardon someone or forgive them, we pardon their memory, we pardon their
name, and we pardon the future of that name and its legacy.
week the decision was made to pardon the name, memory and legacy of a man who
shaped our nation, the Pacific Leaders Forum, and was the force behind much of
what we enjoy today as a country – Papa Albert Henry.
pardon does not detract from what he himself pleaded guilty to, and took
responsibility for, it just no longer defines him, his name, nor us
collectively as a country. Because when a father of a nation is defined by
guilt, are we his sons and daughters, also tainted with that guilt – is it a
collective guilt we all share in some way or another?
that guilt has been lifted and driven by the courage of our wider and former political
spectrum, government, cabinet, our Prime Minister and the King’s
Representative. Today we can begin to unravel, the many layers hidden
underneath that collective guilt, the political actors that were at work locally
and internationally, that contributed to his demise in 1979. There is so much
more to this than we have come to understand, and more that in the course of
time, we will come to know.
the context of a post-Cold War world, Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, an avowed
anti-socialist who sought to reduce the power of the trade unions in New
Zealand, did not see Albert Henry as the New Zealand government’s choice to
lead our new democracy.
was a socialist and nationalist and came from the trade unions in New Zealand,
bringing the fight to the Cook Islands with the establishment of the Cook
Islands Progressive Association (CIPA). He challenged the exploitation of local
growers by New Zealand suppliers. A fight that would see Holyoake call for the
army to be stationed in Rarotonga in response to strike action organised by
fight that would see a clause slipped into our first elections, to ensure Henry
was unable to stand, with a three-year residence added to the qualification to
run as a candidate.
would outmaneuver the block to his candidacy by placing his sister Marguerite
Story as a “placeholder” and was elected in the Te-au-o-Tonga constituency, in Rarotonga.
the election, the government reduced the residency requirements from three
years to three months. Story resigned her seat to allow her brother to run in
a by-election, with Henry winning by a landslide, and the government then electing
Story as the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, a position she held
opposition to Henry would continue under NZ PM John Marshall and then shortly
after, we had the Labour’s Norman Kirk years, then Robert Muldoon.
change in tone was clearly seen in what we would come to know as the Kirk-Henry
letters of exchange, where we clarified our relationship as two countries,
separate and united, under free association, and the formalisation of the Realm
of New Zealand.
what remained were elements of control and expectation as New Zealand citizens,
obligations to the Queen, and the New Zealand government’s discomfort as we
looked to pursue our own sovereign and independent foreign policy, what
academic Williame Gucake called the need for New Zealand’s permission.
1965 and 1978, we experienced a wave of deep nationalism under the leadership
of Henry, and a developing economy with Henry highlighting the potential of seabed
minerals and fishing alongside the developing tourism industry with the opening
of the International Airport in 1972. This potential for business led to
comments by Henry on our pathway to independence and joining the United
Nations, something New Zealand remained opposed to.
at the end of Henry’s tenure in 1979, a new leader would be drawn from the ranks
of Harvard and NASA in the United Sates, and under Tom Davis’ leadership, Henry’s
nationalist apparatus would be dismantled and a more capitalist free market
along with financial trust companies would soon flourish – alongside a new national
flag that resembled our former colonial power.
next week in part two and the political actors that led to Henry losing his knighthood.