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"A Dowry for the Sultan"

Book Review – “A Dowry for the Sultan: a Tale of the Siege of Manzikert 1054” by Lance Collins

Self published by the author in Australia.
© Lance Collins 2016
ISBN 9780994540904 (paperback)

Reviewed by Ross Himona

A novel set in Central Eurasia in 1054 against the background of conflict between the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) Empire and the Seljuk Turks. This tale is about the Battle of Manzikert in 1054 in which the Byzantines prevailed against the Turks in their attempt to lay siege to and capture the city of Manzikert. In 1071 at the next Battle of Manzikert the Turks were victorious and seized control of much of Asia Minor. The fall of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 finally ended the Byzantine Empire.

At the time of this novel the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire was Christian and culturally and linguistically Greek. Hence its citizens and soldiers were described as both Roman and Greek which is sometimes confusing. Frankish mercenaries also feature prominently in the novel. The Franks were a Germanic people from the Western Roman Empire who eventually gave their name to the modern France. The other main characters (apart from the Turkish invaders) are the Armenians. Armenia was the first state to become Christian (late 4th Century & early 5th Century) and was absorbed into the Byzantine Empire in 1045, soon after to be invaded by the Seljuk Turks. At the time of this novel Manzikert in Armenia was a key strategic city on the eastern border of the Byzantine Empire.

Central Eurasian history is extremely complex, involving the rise and fall of empires and the waxing and waning of thousands of tribes over many millennia. Although “A Dowry for the Sultan” is set in just a short period in this vast history it has obviously required a great deal of general historical research as well as specific political and military study by the author. That shows in the authenticity of the depiction of cultural, political, military and intelligence aspects of the story. The author’s own background as a military officer and intelligence analyst shines through in the detail of strategic, tactical and intelligence operations central to the story. As a former military officer and intelligence analyst myself I greatly enjoyed that authenticity. Although the central characters brought the book alive for me that authenticity added an extra layer of enjoyment.

Apart from historical, political and military authenticity there are the wonderfully portrayed diverse characters of many ethnicities with whom we are led to intimately engage. In this book the main characters are both human and animal, for in those times horses were the main mode of transport and formed an intimate warrior partnership with the fighting man. We come to know the horses in this story almost as well as we know their owners. The author’s country upbringing and his lifelong love of his own horses shines through. The detail of the partnership between horse and rider is quite astonishing. The people however, the politicians, soldiers, townspeople and their womenfolk, and their stories, are what draw us in and hold our attention from the beginning to the end of this well told story.

The unfolding love stories set against the background of warfare in which men and women often worked and fought side by side were what got me in the end. They are beautifully told. They showed that even in times of constant political intrigue and warfare, and in times in which human life was often valued cheaply, in which rape, pillage, plunder, murder, slavery and genocide were commonplace, there was also beauty in the human relationships. These love stories are islands in an ocean of human misery for this is the story of the clearance of a countryside of its people, animals, crops and treasures by a ferocious invader, and of a fierce battle to eventually defeat him. There is much death and much misery as there was in those times, and as there is still in the Middle East today. Then as now in the to and fro of geopolitical relationships the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must.

A Byzantine officer, Leo Bryennius and his soldiers, accompanied by a Frankish mercenary, Guy d’Agiles and his small party, ride from Constantinople to Manzikert to bolster the defences of the city commanded by the Byzantine Basil Apocapes. At the time Manzikert was thought by some to be threatened by Tughrul Bey, the sultan of the Seljuk Turks, although not everyone agreed and it was therefore not adequately garrisoned to repel a determined invader. Bryennius and his men arrive after an incident filled journey to find an undermanned city garrison that would be greatly outnumbered by the Turkish army. The main story revolves around the creative and inventive intelligence operations, strategy and tactics employed by Apocapes and Bryennius to see off Tughrul Bey, and the collective and individual courage and heroism of the defenders of the city.

There is also much intrigue in the employment of spies by both sides. Accurate intelligence was an essential component of the eventual victory.

The novel began to form when the author heard of an incident in history involving the courage of a single soldier about whom virtually nothing was known. He has given Guy d’Agiles that role in the novel and woven the incident into this story. In this fictional account it becomes the key courageous event that finally defeated the Seljuk Turk army and enabled the Byzantine victory at Manzikert in 1054.

A riveting read.


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New Zealand's Quiet War in Malaya & Borneo 1964 -1966

Did the British and Americans start Confrontation?

Book Review: “The Genesis of Konfrontasi, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia 1945-1965
By Greg Poulgrain, published by the Strategic Research & Development Centre (SIRD), Malaysia, 2014.

In this essay I try to cover the main points of Dr Poulgrain’s thesis with some reference to other sources. It is a book packed with detail and the essay is therefore detailed and quite long.

Konfrontasi or Confrontation was the war that New Zealand’s armed forces were committed to from 1964 to 1966 as part of Commonwealth military assistance to the Federation of Malaya and the British Borneo states. At the time Malaya was enmeshed in the process of federating with Singapore, and with the Borneo states of North Borneo (Sabah), Brunei and Sarawak, to form the Federation of Malaysia. Indonesia was opposed to that and engaged in political and military Konfrontasi.

The main NZ units in Konfrontasi were 1st Battalion Royal NZ Infantry Regiment (1 RNZIR), detachments of NZ Special Air Service Squadron (NZSAS), 41 Squadron RNZAF (troop and supply carrying), 14 Squadron RNZAF (Canberra bombers), HMNZS Otago, HMNZS Taranaki and HMNZS Royalist. 1 RNZIR was at the time permanently stationed in Malaya as part of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade. Parts of the British response to Konfrontasi especially its “Claret” cross border operations in Borneo were very secret. It was also a war that was mostly beneath the radar of public awareness in New Zealand.

The reviewer served in 1 RNZIR for part of that period from November 1965 to December 1967 and deployed with the battalion to Sarawak on operations in 1966.

Retired NZ Army officer and military historian Christopher Pugsley states in his book “From Emergency to Confrontation, the New Zealand Armed Forces in Malaya and Borneo 1949 – 1966”:

    “The principal trigger for the Confrontation between the Republic of Indonesia and the United Kingdom and the Federation of Malaya was the outbreak of a rebellion in Brunei.”

      2003, Oxford University Press, Ch 7 Confronting Intruders.

To this day that has been the orthodox official and historical line from the time of the rebellion (also called the Brunei Revolt) on 8th December 1962 and it is true to an extent. However Dr Poulgrain, an Australian political historian specialising in South East Asia, has unearthed compelling new evidence to suggest that the Brunei Revolt was started by British Intelligence and that the CIA was also complicit in fomenting unrest in Sarawak, condoned by British Intelligence. It that was so then it could be said that Konfrontasi was started by British Intelligence and not, as history records, by Indonesian President Sukarno.

This new evidence contradicts the orthodox historical version stated by Pugsley:

    “… it was the attempted coup d’etat in Brunei by Inche A.A.Azahari Mahmud [sic] and his Patai Ra’ayat on 8 December 1962 which prompted the Indonesian action against Malaysia’s formation that was known as Konfrontasi (Confrontation)”.

That contradiction is explored in detail later in this essay.

The Genesis of Konfrontasi” traces the relationship of Indonesia and British Colonialism in South East Asia from the end of World War II through to the events leading up to the outbreak of Konfrontasi. To gain a fuller appreciation one should also read Dr Pougrain’s companion book “The Incubus of Intervention, conflicting Indonesia strategies of John F Kennedy and Allen Dulles” (SIRD, Malaysia, 2015).

Post war decolonisation in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia), Philippines, Indonesia. Malaya, North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak provides the broad background in which Britain and the USA generally cooperated but also had conflicting interests and goals.

The USA was also internally conflicted in that the CIA under Allen Dulles was conducting a covert programme in Indonesia at odds with President Kennedy’s own policy. The CIA programme aimed at regime change by unseating President Sukarno and replacing him with a USA-friendly military led government. President Kennedy on the other hand befriended President Sukarno and wanted to provide economic assistance to bring Indonesia into the USA’s sphere of influence. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963 and the CIA prevailed. To implement their own programme the CIA had first to unify Indonesia’s various military commands into a single powerful national force and also to ensure it was trained and equipped to assume its new role. As part of that programme the CIA fomented rebellion in various outer islands in Indonesia, covertly supplied the rebels with arms, and also provided Intelligence to Indonesia’s armed forces to ensure they put down the rebellions, thus building themselves into a legitimate national force.

That CIA programme is documented in “Incubus of Intervention” and it provides information vital to understanding the CIAs role in Konfrontasi.

Whereas the USA aimed to decolonise South East Asia as soon as possible after WW2 Britain was less enthusiastic. Undoubtedly the USA wanted to establish its own military and economic hegemony over the region, in its own interests and also as a Cold War strategy to restrict the influence of China and the USSR. Britain was reluctant to give up the last vestiges of empire and its access to strategic assets notably Brunei’s oilfields.

The Philippines gained its independence from the USA in 1945. Indonesia declared independence in 1945, fought the Dutch and gained UN recognition in 1949. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia fought the French and gained their independence in 1954. Britain granted independence to the Federation of Malaya in 1957 but continued to maintain its military and economic influence. The territories of Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak remained British until the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Singapore left the Federation of Malaysia to become an independent nation in 1965.

Malaya was an important producer of tin, rubber and palm oil. Brunei was a major source of oil. Singapore was a centre of regional power and control with its port and trade facilities. Those facilities were also used in the export and import trade with the resource rich Indonesian archipelago. British companies controlled most of that economic activity. To ensure that the cash continued to flow from those assets Britain had to ensure that Indonesian influence in the British sphere of economic interest was eliminated or that the leadership in Jakarta was not anti-British. To this end Britain engaged in a series of covert provocations towards Indonesia. President Sukarno’s firm stance of anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism and non-alignment meant that he had to be removed and replaced. In this respect, and from an Indonesian viewpoint, Konfrontasi is seen not as a premeditated act or as a policy by design but partly as a response to British provocation.

Dr Poulgrain writes extensively about the post-WW2 relationship difficulties between Britain and Indonesia leading to Britain’s determination to oust President Sukarno.

Konfrontasi may also have been a ploy in the presidential ambitions of Indonesia’s foreign minister Dr Subandrio who might have been Britain’s preference as president.

British Intelligence

Singapore was important not just as a transit port for South East Asian imports and exports but as the centre of British control and power over the region.

Much of that control and power was exerted through its Intelligence operations commanded and coordinated from Singapore. Hong Kong and Singapore were major spy bases in the region. During the Malayan Emergency High Commissioner Sir Gerald Templer who had served in Military Intelligence overhauled British Intelligence in Malaya and from that time it became a potent coordinated force. His innovations were repeated in the other British territories. The Police Special Branches were primarily responsible for Intelligence operations in the British colonies and former colonies. They were supported and virtually controlled by MI5 officers who were often appointed to senior positions in Special Branch.

MI5 was the lead agency for Intelligence within the colonies and former colonies, although in Malaya, Singapore, and the British Borneo states Special Branch was the lead agency for internal security and Intelligence. The Joint Intelligence Committee Far East (JICFE) was located in Singapore as was Security Intelligence Far East (SIFE) which was a joint Intelligence assessment agency (MI5, MI6, Military and Police Special Branch). MI6 had had a station in Singapore since the 1920s and eventually took over the lead role in Singapore from MI5 after British withdrawal from the region. The CIA had had a station in Singapore since the 1930s and was represented at JICFE and SIFE.

In 1954 MI6 and the CIA concluded the “Four Square Agreement” in which the CIA retained intelligence responsibility for the Phillipines and British intelligence services looked after Malaya, Singapore and Burma. Both the CIA and MI6 agreed to cooperate in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia.

Intelligence operations throughout the region included covert MI6 operations in Indonesia aiming to undermine President Sukarno.

GCHQ, the British signals intelligence agency now known to be part of the Five Eyes network, had a major listening post in Singapore until well into the 1970s (and one in Hong Kong). It was of crucial importance in the Malayan Emergency and leading up to and during Konfrontasi. In the mid-1970s it was revealed in the Australian media that it had operated as a joint British/Australian intercept station for some time. The Australian signals intercept station in Darwin was also an important source of Intelligence.

    See Calder Waldron, “Empire of Secrets, British Intelligence, the Cold War, and the twilight of Empire”, William Collins Publishers, London, 2013.

    For details of the Intelligence structure and responsibilities see also Leon Comber, “Malaya’s Secret Police, The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency“, Monash University Press Melbourne and Institute of SE Asian Studies Singapore, 2008.

This coordinated Intelligence network was to play a major role in the genesis of Konfrontasi.

By 1960 the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) under the leadership of Ralph Harry had created independent stations in Jakarta, Tokyo and Dili and had several officers working with allies in Hong Kong and Singapore. The ASIS officer in Singapore worked on the staff of the Head of MI6.

In the early 1960’s ASIS had mounted six covert operations in Indonesia including propaganda campaigns, medical assistance to President Sukarno’s opponents, and ‘more direct’ attempts to engineer President Sukarno’s political demise. These would have been in conjunction with Britain’s MI6 and probably the CIA.

    See Robert Macklin, “Warrior Elite”, Hachette, Sydney, 2015.

In the book Dr Poulgrain refers simply to SIFE as the main agency involved in the genesis of Konfrontasi but the Intelligence apparatus was much greater than SIFE which was a coordinating agency.

Indonesia’s Anti-Colonial Campaigns

Following its successful fight to gain independence from the Dutch from 1945, Indonesia engaged in two anti-colonial campaigns in the 1960s. The first was against Dutch control of Netherlands New Guinea (now Papua and West Papua). Indonesia invaded in 1962 and gained control in 1963. It was a simple matter of ejecting a colonial power and gaining territory and control of its economic potential. The second campaign against the formation of Malaysia erupted about three months before the May 1963 assumption of sovereignty in New Guinea.

Dr Subandrio was prominent in both campaigns and it was he who declared Konfrontasi.
Although many British government and other commentators have declared that the simple aim was territorial expansion the actual aims of Konfrontasi were never clearly delineated, remained unclear throughout the three years it lasted, and remain unclear to this day unless Dr Poulgrain’s thesis is correct.

The Research

His research has been painstaking. In the extensive bibliography he lists over 120 Colonial Office records, and records from the Foreign Office, War Office and India Office. He lists 62 interviews across all sides of the conflict. Some of the main interviews were A.M.Azahari who it was widely claimed started the Brunei Revolt, Oei Tju Tat a Chinese lawyer appointed by President Sukarno as the leading civilian coordinator for Konfrontasi, General Soehario former head of the Indonesian Army in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) and General Nasution former Indonesian Chief of Staff. On the other side he interviewed Sir Alexander Waddell former Governor of Sarawak, Roy Henry former head of Special Branch in Sarawak and Brunei and a number of former oil company employees of British Malayan Petroleum (BMP, later Brunei Shell).

The late Roy Henry provided crucial new verbal evidence for this book concerning his time as Head of Sarawak Special Branch, which made him the head of British Intelligence in Sarawak and Brunei before and during Konfrontasi. He was a very credible witness for after Special Branch he was appointed Commissioner of Sarawak Police, Commissioner of Police Fiji, then Commissioner of Police Hong Kong.

BMP had been exploring for oil in the region since the 1950s and operated the known very lucrative oilfields. In 1963 BMP discovered, or announced the discovery of the giant offshore oilfield known as South West Ampa just off the coast of Brunei. BMP built its own Intelligence capability and was covertly active in combating threats to its vested economic interest. So close was BMP’s relationship with British Intelligence that Chinese speaking members of the BMP intelligence network were made available to Special Branch. BMP also had close relations and influence with the Colonial Office in London.

The history of Konfrontasi would not be complete without an examination of the role of BMP.

The Colonial Office Agenda

Public Office records reveal that the Colonial Office had two aims in the decolonisation programme. Firstly to ensure that the new political leaders were those amenable to continued British investment and secondly to ensure that the political environment of the region did not include Sukarno as President of Indonesia.

The Colonial Office drew up the format for decolonisation and the formation of Malaysia as early as 1953 but had a number of political and security hurdles to overcome before it could be implemented. Foremost among those was the large number of Chinese resident in Malaya, Singapore and the Borneo states. All Chinese were thought to be potential communists. The solution in Malaya was a constitution that gave most political power to the Malays and diminished the political influence of significant Chinese and Indian populations, and a military and Intelligence campaign (Malayan Emergency) against Chinese communists. By about 1960 many Chinese communist leaders had been eliminated or driven north into Southern Thailand. Malaysia would continue to combat that threat until about 1989.

Singapore was mainly Chinese and in the mid-1950s there were large scale riots blamed on communist led unions. But British Public Office Records reveal that the largest of those riots in October 1956 was deliberately provoked by British Intelligence to enable the arrest of prominent anti-British activists. British Intelligence was also active in supporting the political rise of Britain-friendly Lee Kuan Yew who later became Prime Minister of Singapore and who probably had close links to British Intelligence.

In Sarawak the Chinese dominated commercial and political activity and comprised one third of the population. The Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP) was the most prominent political party and was Chinese dominated with some underground communist support. The political direction in Sarawak was changed by Konfrontasi by reducing the influence of the Chinese and causing Sarawak to seek greater security in the Federation rather than statehood in its own right. British interests were furthered by Konfrontasi in that it made the British decolonisation plan possible.

On 15th August 1991 Dr Poulgrain interviewed Roy Henry the former head of Special Branch in Sarawak and Brunei and he admitted that he had a direct hand in starting the Brunei Revolt. At the time Henry was the overall head of British Intelligence in Sarawak and Brunei. He also admitted that the CIA had a hand in supplying arms and fomenting rebellion in Sarawak prior to Konfrontasi thus allowing the British to reduce Chinese influence through Special Branch operations whilst blaming it on Indonesia. British Intelligence was well aware of what the CIA was doing.

The Brunei Revolt

Brunei and its oil was vital to British (and BMP) interests and Britain tried to include it in the Federation of Malaysia, with the Sultan of Brunei given a governance role much as the ruling sultans in the Malayan states had been given roles in the Federation of Malaya.

However political leader Sheikh Azahari bin Sheikh Mahmud better known as A.M.Azahari was opposed to the British plan and proposed a Kalimantan Utara (North Kalimantan) federation of Brunei, British North Borneo and Sarawak with the Sultan of Brunei as titular head. He and his Partai Rakyat Brunei (PRB – Brunei Peoples Party) favoured joining the Federation of Malaysia but as a unified North Kalimantan grouping. They thought that would shield them from the dominating influence of Malay administrators and Chinese merchants.

In fact Azahari had promoted his version of federation as early as 1955 before he formed the PRB. By 1962 he had gained support for Kalimantan Utara across all three Borneo states and had become the most likely politician to lead the proposed new state. Azahari was then and is still depicted as being opposed to the Federation of Malaysia but in fact he supported it, just not in the form proposed by Britain. Just as he was not anti-Malaysia he was not anti-British and not anti-Sultan although that was the British propaganda of the time and the most common historical version to date.

Azahari was actually close to the Sultan and trusted by him. The sultan supported Azahari’s Kalimantan Utara alternative. That was anathema to the British who had to get rid of Azahari in order to defeat it. In fact British Intelligence working hand in glove with the oil company’s (BMP) managing director had been trying to destroy Azahari’s influence since at least 1957.

Legislative Council elections were held in Brunei in August 1962 and Azahari’s PRB won a sweeping victory with 54 of the 55 seats. The independent 55th member promptly joined the PRB. The PRB then announced that a motion would be tabled requesting the British Government to return sovereignty of Sarawak and North Borneo to the Sultan of Brunei, and to federate the three British Borneo Territories. Azahari was determined to avoid violence and maintained a commitment by PRB to achieve power by constitutional means.

While he was in the Philippines in December 1962 one of his PRB executives, H.M.Salleh, instigated armed rebellion. He did it in response to a predicament engineered by Roy Henry and Special Branch. Henry created the situation by arresting several PRB members in Sarawak and then “leaking” information that he had threatened similar arrests in Brunei. He led them to believe they had only limited time to act. His message was relayed to the PRB by a magistrate (Jaya Latif) whose uncle became one of the eight executive members who panicked and started the Brunei Revolt.

While in the Philippines Azahari had obtained a document proclaiming the official agreement of the Philippines Government to forego all claims to North Borneo and recognising the claim of the Sultan of Brunei. It was the first international recognition of Azahari’s Kalimantan Utara concept with the Sultan of Brunei as constitutional monarch. It was an important document and Azahari had intended to produce it at the United Nations. On the morning of the revolt the PRB officials bearing the document were physically prevented from reaching the Sultan’s palace.

    “Shaken by the tumult and commotion, and believing the explanation given him by British intelligence the he would have been kidnapped, the Sultan turned against the PRB rebels, and against Azahari”.
    “British Intelligence succeeded in turning the Sultan away from the concept of Kalimantan Utara, and Brunei subsequently became an isolated oil enclave under British protection”.

That isolation also robbed the new Federation of Malaysia of much needed oil revenues and preserved them in British hands. Had Azahari’s plan been successful Malaysia would have shared in the benefits.

In his interview Roy Henry stated that all of the political organisations in Brunei and Sarawak including Azahari’s PRB were well penetrated by Special Branch, the PRB at executive level. That being so his manipulation of events would have been relatively easy.

After the Brunei Revolt

The aftermath across all of the proposed Malaysian states was diabolical. In Singapore Lee Kuan Yew accused Lim Chin Siong of being complicit in the Brunei revolt because Siong had met Azahari (on another matter entirely). Nevertheless in Operation Cold Store on the night of 2nd February 1963 Lee Kuan Yew arrested Siong and 112 political activists. It was almost his entire left wing opposition. Evidence in the British Archives and provided to Dr Poulgrain in interviews with British government and security service officials clearly show that this was a political contrivance.

In Malaya a dozen of the top left wing opponents of Federation were arrested on 13th February 1963. As a result of the Brunei Revolt the leading figures in the left wing political parties in Malaya, Singapore and Sarawak were detained prior to the formation of Malaysia. Azahari and Siong were probably the two most influential opponents of the British plan and both were removed.


So far in this review I have dealt (at great length) with the first Colonial Office objective in decolonisation: to ensure that the new political leaders were those amenable to continued British investment. Intelligence operations towards achieving that objective included the Brunei Revolt which helped lead to the achievement of the second objective, to ensure that the political environment of the region did not include Sukarno as President of Indonesia. In other words to Konfrontasi, although it should always be remembered that the CIA was primarily responsible for the removal of Sukarno and that the British Commonwealth response to Konfrontasi was a sideshow in that programme. It is probable that Britain’s MI6 (SIS) and perhaps its branch office (Australia’s ASIS) were involved with the CIA in Indonesia.

Just how the Brunei revolt led to Konfrontasi, or even if it did, is still shrouded in mystery.
The British immediately sent troops to quell the revolt. That reaction may or may not have been pre-planned. The Intelligence hierarchy in Singapore would certainly have known about Roy Henry’s manipulation of events in Brunei. Historians have written that the Sultan himself asked for military assistance “yet, according to The Straits Times, the request came from W.J.Parks, the aide-de-camp of the High Commissioner Sir Dennis White, who was then on sick leave in London”. The Brunei constitution at the time allowed the Colonial Office to bypass the wish of the Sultan.

    “Soon after the rebellion started British troops from Singapore went straight to Sarawak, causing the exodus of many Chinese youths into neighbouring Indonesian territory. Whilst these youths were regarded by Indonesia as part of a clandestine communist organisation engaged in a righteous anti-colonial struggle, what Indonesia did not realise is that they were armed with weapons only because they had been supplied by William Andreas Brown and Frank C. Starr, both linked to the CIA”.

The involvement of those two Americans was revealed by Roy Henry during his interview.

    “The absence of any real communist threat in Sarawak in the days before Konfrontasi was precisely what necessitated the CIA supply of weapons, in order to boost the political profile which previously the ‘underground group’ in Sarawak did not have”.
    “This exodus caught the attention of Indonesia and, after some bitter recrimination between Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta (with some crucial addition by Subandrio) the argument expanded into Konfrontasi. The threat of Indonesian incursion into Sarawak now ensured that the previous reluctance to join Malaysia suddenly evaporated”.

After the Brunei Revolt and the exodus of Chinese from Sarawak hostilities in Sarawak between Indonesia and Britain and Malaysia gradually escalated. The rhetoric on both sides became so offensive that armed Konfrontasi became inevitable. It began on 12 April 1963, when about 30 armed raiders from Indonesian Kalimantan overran a police border post in Sarawak.

Dr Poulgrain explains in detail how those hostilities were started by British and American Intelligence. He also details the role of Indonesian foreign minister Dr Subandrio in increasing the tension between Indonesia and Malaysia/Britain, thus providing fertile ground for Konfrontasi.

The three rival power factions in Jakarta were all involved in Konfrontasi; the political elite led by Dr Subandrio, the military, and the PKI (Communist Party). President Sukarno did not initiate it but moved to try to take control after it started in 1963. Whilst Konfrontasi suited the agenda of the CIA President Kennedy wanted it to stop. In 1963 he arranged to visit Indonesia early in 1964 to join with President Sukarno to bring it to an end using their considerable combined personal charisma to achieve it through popular support of the Indonesian people.

According to the USA ambassador in Jakarta at the time President Sukarno was in accord with President Kennedy. However Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November 1963. Konfrontasi continued.

On 17th August 1964 Indonesia landed a small military force on the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia. On 2nd September 1964 Indonesian paratroopers dropped into the same general area. That incursion drew into Konfrontasi the Australian and New Zealand battalions based in Terendak Camp near Malacca. The Indonesians were quickly killed or captured.

Attention then focused entirely on operations in Borneo rising to a peak in 1965 and gradually decreasing through the early part of 1966. Konfrontasi formally ended on 11th August 1966.

Konfrontasi was largely a political action rather than a concerted military one. It was started by Indonesia’s foreign minister. The Indonesian military initially welcomed it for it enabled them to gain more manpower and resources to build their own power base compared to the other two powers, the political elite (and President Sukarno) and the PKI (Communist Party). The military did not however commit to Konfrontasi with any enthusiasm for the PKI was its main concern. Its best and most loyal units were retained in Java where they were held in preparation to put down any communist uprising.

General Suharto (later President Suharto) who at the time was commander of the army’s strategic command (KOSTRAD) was deputed by his pro-American anti-communist superiors to effectively sabotage Konfrontasi. He initiated secret negotiations with British officials in 1964 even before the landings in Peninsula Malaysia. The landings themselves, being extremely limited in manpower and especially in logistic support, cannot be construed as a serious military invasion but as an act of political provocation (i.e. Konfrontasi).

In 1965 (before 1 RNZIR’s first deployment to Borneo) Suharto had his envoys in Singapore assure the British that the Indonesian Armed Forces did not intend to invade Malaysia. He was also responsible for the operational aspects on Konfrontasi in Borneo and elsewhere. He deliberately starved Indonesia’s units deployed along its border with Sarawak of manpower and resources. Units in Sumatra were denied the naval assets they needed to invade across the Malacca Straits to West Malaysia. However British Intelligence and military action in Borneo, including its cross border “Claret” operations ensured a high level of operational activity throughout most of 1965.

Given that Britain’s primary concern was to drive the Sultan of Brunei into the British camp, and to drive Sarawak into federation with Malaya, and given that Indonesia’s military didn’t actually intend to invade Malaysia, Konfrontasi was to all intents and purposes a phoney war. It was a phoney war on both sides.

After the tumultuous Gerakan-30 September Movement (G-30-S) in 1965, in which six pro-American anti-communist generals were killed by a joint PKI-military action and after which General Suharto assumed command of the armed forces and effective control of President Sukarno, formal negotiations with Britain and Malaysia began, ending in the agreement in August 1966 that recognised the nation of Malaysia.

The Genesis of Konfrontasi” describes the events leading up to Konfrontasi and does not cover any of the subsequent hostilities and operations described above.

The Role of Dr Subandrio

“So important was the role of Subandrio in Konfrontasi, in the preparation and instigation, that the acrimony between Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta would not have reached combustion point without his collaboration”.

Foreign Minister Dr Subandrio was the leader of Jakarta’s political elite and regarded himself as the president-in-waiting. He had some influence in Britain having been ambassador in London from 1950 to 1954. After the “G-30-S” 1965 bloodbath in Indonesia when several generals were killed he was accused of complicity and sentenced to death. He refused to ask General Suharto for clemency and it was the British Foreign Office that arranged a plea for clemency in the names of Queen Elizabeth II and US President Lyndon B. Johnson. He then spent 20 years in prison and lived for another nine years. Dr Subandrio was the main agitator for Konfrontasi against Malaysia and therefore against Britain and he was the man who declared it. That was an extraordinary plea on behalf of a former enemy unless there was a deeper connection, perhaps an Intelligence connection.

    “Subandrio was instrumental in creating conditions that led to the Brunei rebellion and the start of Konfrontasi, and that his motivation and also SIFE’s [British Intelligence] motivation was that, as the acknowledged deputy, he would soon replace President Sukarno whose health was deteriorating”.

Dr Subandrio used his leading involvement in the first anti-colonial campaign against the Netherlands and his lead role in the second campaign against Malaysia to promote his own credentials as the replacement for President Sukarno. And Sukarno’s replacement was the second item on the Colonial Office agenda. The CIA had other ideas and their preference for a military government came to pass.

In the last chapter of the book Dr Poulgrain explores the evidence for collusion between Subandrio and British Intelligence to start Konfrontasi and to promote Dr Subandrio’s cause. He presents considerable circumstantial evidence.

The Review

In reviewing this book “The Genesis of Konfrontasi” I have drawn on other sources including Dr Poulgrain’s companion book “The Incubus of Intervention” about CIA involvement in Indonesia. Christopher Pugsley’s “From Emergency to Confrontation” was valuable in sourcing information about New Zealand’s involvement in Konfrontasi. “Empire of Secrets, British Intelligence, the Cold War, and the twilight of Empire” by Calder Waldron has been used specifically to fill out information about British Intelligence in the region at the time.

Intelligence is the missing dimension in most geopolitical and military history and it is not until archives are opened 30 or 50 years after the events that the true history is revealed. A case in point is ULTRA, the breaking of the German Enigma codes during WW2, a coup that significantly aided allied victories. That secret was not revealed until 1974 just over 30 years later. In 2012 some Intelligence archives in London were declassified. They covered the period up to the early 1960s but not, it would seem, the machinations behind Konfrontasi.

Hopefully this investigation into the secret history of Konfrontasi some 50 years after the event is just the first. Dr Poulgrain presents an extremely well researched history of the genesis of Konfrontasi not at all consistent with the official history. It is a compelling and very believable version. It will however need to be corroborated by other historians in the years ahead. I hope it is.

For those of us in the military who were involved and who have lived with what may well have been official lies for the last 50 years we need to know the truth. It is somewhat disconcerting to find out that perhaps we were not simply fighting to protect Malaysia from Indonesia, but mainly to ensure that British economic interests in the region were preserved under the control of their preferred political leaders, in the form of nationhood preferred by Britain, regardless of what the people of the region might have wanted for themselves, such as a Kalimantan Utara federation in Borneo under the rule of the Sultan of Brunei.

Much of the evidence of British Intelligence involvement in the genesis of Konfrontasi is conclusive, based on historical archives and first hand accounts. Some is circumstantial, especially the relationship between Dr Subandrio and British Intelligence. It is that aspect that will need further research, and hopefully more Intelligence archives will eventually be declassified. What is certain is that the genesis is murky and nothing like the official version.

The book is so at odds with the official version that I am sure that many in the Establishment, if they ever come across a book published in Malaysia, will label it a crank theory. It deserves more serious consideration than that.

In this review I have related the highlights but there is much more in the detail. The book is packed with the detail of decades of research and is not a quick read. It is however rewarding for those with an interest in the events of that time.

The book is not in ready stock, not even at Amazon, and takes time to be sourced. I heard about it from Dr Poulgrain himself (on Skype) during a presentation on his later (2015) book “The Incubus of Intervention” about the involvement of the CIA in Indonesia. I bought the last copy of “The Genesis of Konfrontasi” online from Amazon and it is currently unavailable.

It is also advertised by a Singapore bookseller, $US17.51 plus postage.
Select Books, Singapore

Book Review: Parekura Horomia ‘Kia Ora Chief’

Author Wira Gardiner. Published 2014 by Huia Publishers, Wellington with the assistance of the Maori Purposes Fund Board. ISBN 978-1-77550-162-6.
Reviewed by Ross Himona

I almost reviewed this book as soon as it was released but given what I have to say I thought I’d wait a respectful period.

But first a declaration of interest. Wira Gardiner the author has been a friend for longer than we both care to remember; since 1963. He has also quoted me in the concluding chapter. Notwithstanding our long and close friendship we have no problem whatsoever about disagreeing with each other’s views, so I will not hold back on the criticism if I feel the need to do so.

I suppose the one comment that most describes Parekura Horomia is that made by Hekia Parata in her foreword, “He was a good man …”.

He was inarticulate in English and Maori but he communicated, he was way overweight and didn’t look after his health, he neglected his family in pursuit of whatever it was he was pursuing, he was a flawed man but he was a good man. I can agree with that despite the fact that I was often perplexed in my dealings with him.

But I too was one of the many thousands he addressed as “Chief” and was disarmed by it even though I knew he was blowing smoke, if you know what I mean.

This book describes all of that. But mostly it is a tribute to Parekura by the many whanaunga, friends and colleagues whose memories of him make up the bulk of the book. At the launch of “Kia Ora Chief’ at Parliament House in 2014 I spoke to Brian Morris, co-owner of Huia Publishers. He told me that they had to edit well over 100 pages from the first draft of the book because the recollections of Parekura were so repetitive. So many people remembered the same stories about Parekura.

Perhaps that was partly because Parekura himself told the same stories about himself over and over again. How many of us remember the story of the school bus for Pakeha kids that passed by the Maori kids walking to school. Perhaps it was also because he did the same things for so many people over and over again.

What comes out of the book is that Parekura compartmentalised his own life so that you only knew what he wanted you to know, and what he wanted you to know depended on what part of his life you inhabited. He was in effect constructing his own heavily edited story as he lived his life and that is the story he left in the memories of others. It is the story that Wira Gardiner has had to recover from those memories, for Parekura left no written record of his story. There is nothing to contradict the story he constructed; no letters, notebooks, diaries or papers. He was a paperless man. And a very private man despite his huge public profile.

And therein lies the mystery. What was it that Parekura Horomia didn’t leave to be told. What did he tell the trusted others that they are not telling. If there is a weakness in this book that is it. Although presented by the publishers as biography it is memoir rather than biography, albeit a well written memoir. There remains yet an untold story. The whole story and perhaps the real story. I shall explore that theme later.

There can be no doubting however the achievement of the uneducated and inarticulate country boy and family man from Mangatuna who became a successful senior public servant, Minister of the Crown, trusted confidante of a Prime Minister, and much loved champion of the ordinary people of Aotearoa New Zealand. The turnout to his tangihanga, described in the second chapter “Death of a Rangatira”, was testimony to that achievement. Close to 12,000 people came to Hauiti Marae to farewell him.

The book had its genesis in 2006 when Labour Party Parekura and his friend National Party Wira Gardiner discussed the idea of a book about his life that Wira would write in time for the 2008 elections. Parekura never got around to providing any material, written or recorded, and it didn’t get done. At his tangihanga Wira promised Parekura’s sons that he would write it and he kept his promise.

It chronicles all of the phases of Parekura’s life from his childhood and schooling at Mangatuna, through his early working days as a printers apprentice, fencer and shearer, to working with and then for the Department of Labour for twenty years, and then as a member of Parliament for over thirteen years. Gardiner describes those phases as his three whanau groups, the first being his whakapapa whanau in the broadest sense (family and tribal), the second the Department of Labour and the third the Labour Party.

Some parts of his life are shown in greater detail than others, probably reflecting the quantity and quality of interviews. There are chapters on his life at Dannevirke, on his love of rugby, and a whole chapter on his family’s close relationship with an immigrant Scottish family he met at Dannevirke. As might be expected about 60% of the book is about his time in the Department of Labour and as an MP, including chapters on the two controversies during his time as Minister of Maori Affairs; Maori broadcasting and the seabed and foreshore debate. Both were trying times for Parekura and are described in detail.

What was not covered was the other major event that happened on his watch, the 2007 Police paramilitary assault on Ruatoki and on the house of Parekura’s mate Taame Iti at Taneatua. Those so-called “raids” were sanctioned by Helen Clark and one would have thought that she might have sought the advice of her trusted principal Maori advisor Parekura Horomia. We are none the wiser about whether or not he had any part in that fateful decision and its aftermath.

The book would not be complete without the chapter “A Chronic Asthmatic with an Enlarged Heart” about his many health problems and his inability or unwillingness to address those problems.

The strength of the book lies in the hundreds of anecdotes told about Parekura, many of them quite delightful and often amusing, skilfully woven into a collective memoir. It seems that everyone who knew him had a story to tell about him, including myself (pp 431-2). The people recalled his generosity and his ability to reach out and communicate with ordinary people, as well as with those in positions of influence. They spoke of his loyalty and love for his people, and much more. He was by common consensus a good man.

But I go back to the mystery. Who was this man, really?

He left no personal paper trail but he did leave an enormous paper trail in the Department of Labour and in the departments he led as minister. In the Department of Labour he was responsible for tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and other payments to communities up and down New Zealand. He probably didn’t put pen to paper except to sign off his decisions but that paper trail will still be there; a complete record of his grant giving, and a complete analysis of that might be quite revealing. Interviews with the recipients of those grants might also be revealing. I know from personal experience that as a minister he often gave off-the-cuff koha to various causes leaving his departmental staff scrambling to find the money from somewhere. The record of that koha giving might be quite interesting.

Who was this man, really? This man who spent the whole of his public life criss-crossing the country getting to every hui and gathering he possibly could, hardly pausing for breath or so it seemed to many of us who ran into him almost everywhere we went, to be greeted by his “Kia ora Chief”.

What caused him to be generous with his own money to the point that his own family often came second? What drove him to run so hard that for decades his family saw far less of him than his staff, colleagues, constituents and the public at large? Politicians’ families are notoriously neglected but Parekura seemed to run harder than all of them. What drove him to run so hard, to totally neglect his health and to drive himself into an early grave? What was he running from?

We know that he was dedicated to serving the ordinary people but there was something else. He was chasing something. He was seeking something and it drove him. Was it the age old cultural pursuit of mana. Was it that simple, or something much deeper. From the outside looking on it seemed that the man was driven by something deep within. What was it?

In this book we didn’t learn much at all about the private Parekura Horomia. We know that he was a complex and complicated man but after reading the book we have still not delved into the depths of his character. He remains a mystery. There are no doubt those who knew him well and who are not telling; not many but some. They are probably not his family. They are probably the few very close and trusted people who worked with him over the years and remained totally loyal; people like Meka Whaitiri who served him faithfully for many years and after his death replaced him as the MP for Ikaroa Rawhiti.

There are others I know who have more to tell about their encounters with him, both personal and professional, who have decided to honour the man and to remain silent.

They will probably never share the real Parekura Horomia with us. This book then is all we shall know. It faithfully records the Parekura Horomia he and his loyal following wanted us to know. The rest has gone with him to the grave. The story he has left is nevertheless an inspiring story of how a Maori boy from the country overcame almost insurmountable odds to reach one of the highest offices in the land and how he came to be universally loved.

I enjoyed his story.

Review: Taame Iti – Mana, the power in knowing who you are

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

This is a video talk by Taame Iti about the context of his activism and protest over the decades and about the principle underlying that activism – Mana.

The talk was given at TEDx Auckland 2015. TED Talks are a global series of short talks by mostly interesting people about mostly interesting topics.

This talk is tight, concise, well scripted and expertly delivered. It showcases one of Taame’s strengths, that of the performer and communicator. More importantly though it is a short journey through his development as an activist and protestor and an insight into what has driven that activism for decades now. Taame talked to me a few weeks ago about how his activism had made him unemployable, leading to the social work he has turned to, occasionally paid but mostly unpaid. Even now he still owes Legal Aid and the local garage and needs to sell a few more paintings to become debt free.

The personal price of his activism has been great but his mana is intact, the principle worth the price and the ultimate reward has come, shown at the end of the video, in the Ngai Tuhoe settlement with the Crown and in the Crown apology.

I am reviewing this talk in the context of the Police paramilitary counter-terrorism operation, codenamed Operation 8 on 15th October 2007, and in the context of the long drawn out legal proceedings resulting in his imprisonment on arms charges in 2012. The principle upon which all of his activism has been based, that of mana, is one of the keys to understanding what was really going on in the Urewera in the period of the Police “intelligence” operation from late 2005 until October 2007 leading up to the “termination phase”, the actual paramilitary assault on Ruatoki and about 60 premises around the country. I will continue to explore all of that in a later essay. This short profile by Taame about Taame is deeply relevant.

Taame introduces himself in pepeha (in this case with impressive video background) through his maunga, his awa, his marae and Te Urewera. He explains mana; everyone has it, you have it by knowing who you are, where you came from, where is your whenua. Mana can be tested and challenged but we are all equal; we all stand kanohi ki te kanohi, eye to eye as equals. Authority does not equate to mana for we are all equal regardless.

The difference between authority and mana is something few in authority are able to comprehend.

Taame illustrates this principle by describing what happened at school when he was about 8 years old. He and his classmates had all been brought up speaking Te Reo but their headmaster decreed that they were not to use Te Reo at school. At home in Te Reo Taame learnt important things about the ancestors, about the mountains and rivers and about the land. At school in English he learned “Hey diddle diddle the cat and the fiddle”. The tui also sings in its own language and who would stop the bird from singing.

So he and his classmates tested the headmaster’s mana. And took the punishment; a choice between cleaning up horse manure or writing lines. They ended up smelling like horses.

After school, aged 16, he moved to Christchurch where he discovered a whole new wider world. He met people, Maori and Pakeha, who were testing the mana of those in authority. They were involved in women’s liberation, anti-apartheid, anti-Vietnam War, and in various socialist and workers’ rights movements. He learnt about global issues such as stolen lands, police brutality and military rule. The new people he met were standing against injustice, both locally and globally.

He learnt about protest and protest methods including occupations, and about making the authorities uncomfortable by testing their mana. Behind it was the principle that we all have mana, we are all equal, and no-one can steal your mana.

He learnt that to draw authority into a conversation you have to keep the pressure on no matter how long it takes, and you have to keep reminding authority of the need to engage in proper conversation; kanohi ki te  kanohi.

Taame further illustrates his theme by talking of his famous theatrical presentation to the Crown in 1994 during the “Fiscal Envelope” consultation round of hui. The National government at the time had decreed a $1 billion total limit on Treaty of Waitangi settlements and were trying to sell it to the tribes. At the Ngai Tuhoe consultation the Crown representatives led by Minister Doug Graham were seated on stage looking down on everyone else. Taame borrowed a stepladder, mounted it and spoke to the Crown on the same level, kanohi ki te kanohi. I remember it well. It was classic Taame Iti.

He also gave Doug Graham his nephew’s horse blanket in payment for the land the Crown should return to Ngai Tuhoe. Two years later the blanket had been framed and hung on the wall of the Office of Treaty Settlements but no land had been returned. Taame sent them an invoice to remind the Crown of its debt.

All of that was firstly about the Ngai Tuhoe claim against the Crown but the underlying principle was about mana.

In his talk Taame then went on to chronicle the previous decades of activism and protest based on that same principle:

  • 1972 – the Te Reo petition to Parliament
  • 1975 – the Land March to Parliament
  • 1978 – Bastion Point and Raglan
  • 1981 – Springbok tour
  • 1985 – Anti-nuclear protests

The mana of the people is equal to that of any authority.

And after 170 years of resistance and activism Ngai Tuhoe finally obtained the respect and understanding it sought in the Crown settlement and apology. The two protagonists finally acknowledged each other and each other’s mana, kanohi ki te kanohi.

I have watched hundreds of TED Talks and this one is up there with the best, both entertaining and informative.

As shorthand when talking to and about Taame I talk about his standing on a ladder. Standing on a ladder is for me the visual representation of a deep principle underlying all human engagement, a principle rarely understood in the Crown’s engagement with Maori despite the years of Treaty settlements and hundreds of millions of dollars involved.

I still don’t believe that the Crown truly gets the principle of mana. It is something the NZ Police definitely didn’t get in 2007, both in their incompetent “intelligence” investigation and in the paramilitary assault on Ruatoki. More about that later.

Watch the video here: Taame Iti: Mana – the power in knowing who you are .

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Film Review: The Price of Peace, Taame Iti & Operation 8

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Director Kim Webby

The NZ Film Festival billed this film as an in-depth profile of Taame Iti and that it is not. But it is nevertheless a powerful and moving film about a defining chapter in his life and I do highly recommend it.

It is the story of Taame’s arrest on 15th October 2007 accused of terrorism, his subsequent trial in 2012 along with three others, and of events surrounding and subsequent to the arrest and trial. The film does traverse some of his life from his infancy and schooling in the Urewera, leaving home to become an apprenticed tradesman in Christchurch, and on into later life as an activist and Ngai Tuhoe nationalist.

Taame himself told me after he had viewed the film that it did not capture the essence of who he is; nor have any of the tens of thousands of words written about him over the years, or the many documentaries and TV news items made about him. That in-depth profile, one that does show who he really is, is yet to be made. He has plans afoot to ensure that it will be made.

As well as Taame’s story it also recounts the history of the blighted relationship between Ngai Tuhoe and the Crown, and documents the settlement Ngai Tuhoe has recently reached with the Crown. The two separate but closely related stories were unfolding in parallel as the film was made. Both stories are told in historical and contemporary contexts. On film Tamati Kruger relates that he and Taame agreed at the time that the events of the long drawn out court process would not be allowed to affect the settlement negotiations with the Crown. In the film however the two strands are interwoven, the one a reflection of the other.

A personal aside. I found a comment by Taame in the film quite amusing. It was in relation to the activists, mainly Wellington based, who came to the Urewera in 2006/2007 to support the Ngai Tuhoe cause and to attend the weekend “Rama” or wananga he was running, called military training camps by the Police. When I interviewed Taame recently he spoke quite fondly of the activists and of the pleasure he obtained from exchanging ideas with them. In the film he referred to them as “anarchists, vegetarians and fundamentalists” which may not exactly please them but I’m sure was not meant to offend. The funny bit is that I’m a vegan myself and before I interviewed him Taame shouted me a delicious vegan salad for lunch. I wonder if he lumps me in with the fundamentalists! I suppose in his eyes I might be a hard core dietary fundamentalist.

I like Taame Iti. He has a unique way of looking at the world and at events. He has an interesting and creative mind and is never boring. He presents ideas through artistic or theatrical metaphor and symbolism although he can be verbally adroit as well. It is reminiscent of old time Maori use of metaphor and symbolism in everyday speech as well as in formal oratory, through voice, movement and gesture; a style now largely lost to antiquity. His style shines through in the film if you can move beyond the preconceptions almost everyone has about him.

Part of Tamati Kruger’s evidence during the trial was shown. I was in court in 2012 when Tamati was in the witness box and I remember it well. In his evidence for the defence he explained that Taame was a leader among many leaders in Tuhoe and that his role was to explain the Tuhoe viewpoint. In doing so he often made people uncomfortable. In fact he often made Tuhoe people uncomfortable and he often made Tamati Kruger uncomfortable as well. I thought it was a great moment in the film. Perhaps because I like the way Taame Iti makes people uncomfortable. In my own way I try to do the same I suppose, without the theatricality.

In 2006 and 2007 he obviously made the Police and Helen Clark uncomfortable too.

At the screening I saw at Sky City Theatre in Auckland on Wednesday 22nd July 2015 the theatre was about three-quarters full. Kim Webby spoke briefly afterwards. She acknowledged her upbringing at Opotiki and her closeness to Ngai Tuhoe, and that her mentors in matters Tuhoe have been Tamati Kruger and Taame Iti. She also acknowledges that this film is intended to present a Tuhoe perspective. That does not detract at all from the quality of the film.

The earlier screening of the film on Sunday 19th July attracted a sell-out audience including, I am reliably informed,  the 2012 trial judge Justice Rodney Hansen and his wife. Taame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Tamati Kruger and Taame’s trial lawyer Russell Fairbrother were also present.

In relation to Taame’s story there are other scenes from the trial in 2012 including the reading of the charges at the beginning, and at the end of the trial the haka led by Taame after Justice Hansen sentenced him and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara to two and a half years in prison on various arms charges after the jury had not been able to reach a verdict on criminal group charges. Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were not sentenced at that time and later received nine months’ home detention. The criminal group charge that the jury could not agree on had been substituted for the terrorism charges that the Solicitor General would not allow in 2007. Justice Hansen in his summing up, partly shown in the film, clearly believed the evidence presented to support that main charge, and gave great weight to that evidence when sentencing on the lesser arms charges. He believed that the activity in the Urewera was evidence of an “armed militia” intended to be used as “Plan B” if “Plan A”, the Tuhoe settlement negotiations, failed.

The film crew followed Taame during the trial and captured his thoughts and feelings as the trial unfolded. There were many thoughtful moments and some quite humorous. Throughout it all, and afterwards, Taame steadfastly maintained his innocence. The film did not delve into the evidence at all, other than to show parts of it as it was presented to the court.

I have been analysing the police intelligence operation for over three years now, and based on information I have been able to unearth and on interviews with some of the participants in the wananga including Taame Iti, I believe that he was innocent. I will be writing more about that in future essays. The film however does not show any evidence to support Taame’s assertion of innocence.

Intertwined with Taame’s travails was the history behind the Ngai Tuhoe claim against the Crown and the progress of that claim. The film concluded with apologies made in both of those strands.

Firstly there were apologies made by Police Commissioner Bush to the whanau affected by the police paramilitary operation on 15th October 2007, to the Ruatoki community and to Ngai Tuhoe. His welcome to Taame Iti’s home and his apology to Taame’s whanau was shown in full. The response of Maria Steen, Taame’s partner and a victim of the operation, was deeply moving. The Commissioner’s apology seemed to be heart felt and genuine. However it must be noted that no-one has yet been held to account for police behaviour on that day. During this scene in the Iti home Taame told Police Commissioner Mike Bush that if the Police had wanted to know what he was doing they could have simply knocked on his door.

Commissioner Bush later made it clear that he was not apologising for the arrests and that he believed the police were right to bring the charges against Taame and his co-accused.

The second apology was the official apology made by Treaty Minister Christopher Finlayson on behalf of the Crown as part of the settlement that was eventually reached. In that settlement Ngai Tuhoe effectively gained a measure of autonomy over Te Urewera after battling the Crown for generations. The denouement of the film came in the juxtaposition of those two separate apologies.

This was a powerful and moving telling of the two stories told as much through the feelings and emotions of the participants as through the facts of the events. It led us through the anger and the grief, through the prolonged physical and psychological resistance and the resilience of Ngai Tuhoe, to a touch of optimism after the settlement and a ray of hope for a different and perhaps a better future for Ngai Tuhoe people.

Taame seems content to focus now on his art and his art gallery in Taneatua as he contemplates life after the struggles. When I met with him he seemed at peace, accepting of the price he has personally paid.

“The Price of Peace”

Director: Kim Webby
Producers: Christina Milligan, Roger Grant & Kim Webby
Photography: Jos Wheeler
Editor: Cushla Dillon
Music: Joel Haines

“Price of Peace” on Facebook

Links: The Operation 8 Series