As a humble Kiwi Chinese, I initially felt I was not senior enough to write this kind of article to remember the Hon Parekura Horomia, our matua. But I am privileged enough to remember him as a mentor and a friend who had played a brief but important role in my entering into politics and becoming a member of the Labour whanau.
One evening in the early 2008, I was invited to Parliament’s celebration of Chinese New Year. My job was to translate for Prime Minister Helen Clark. The Labour-led Government initiated the celebration in Parliament and this has so far become an annual event. My other mission was to get my nomination form completed.
The form was almost filled out one year earlier in 2007 where I was nominated as a list candidate for the 2008 general election. Being Labour’s first Chinese-born candidate (who’s from the mainland China), this was far more than a normal nomination form. I had the minister for ethnic affairs as my “proposer” and the Prime Minister and four other senior ministers as “seconder”: For any first-time nominee, those big names meant a lot!
Could not remember whose idea it was but my supporters and I felt so strongly that we wanted to get this form completed in the presence of our matua. We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to settle and live in New Zealand and we are deeply grateful to the Tangata whenua.
So immediately after the celebration I rushed to the Executive Wing. I rushed through the endless doors in Beehive trying to get hold of Parekura, the Minister for Maori Affairs. I nearly gave up because I must leave then to catch the last flight back to Auckland. All of sudden and out of nowhere, here came the giant Parekura! He barely knew me at that time but I must have presented myself well in the short space of one of two minutes. He laughed and spoke in his iconic humorous tone: “Ohkey boy, I’ll sign it for you”.
I subsequently sought permission from the General Secretary Mike Smith to keep the original form and submitted instead a certified copy. I cherished the nomination form then and will cherish it more now.
For a humble Chinese person who made New Zealand home, to have someone like Parekura witness my nomination form was more than being symbolic. We are deeply grateful to the Tangata whenua and Parekura was and will forever be our matua.
Since I’ve become an MP, we bumped into each other in the long corridors in Parliament from time to time. Each time he greeted me with a friendly “chief”. He even regarded me as one of his “browny bros” and supported me.
He’s our true chief. His wisdom, passion and humour are a guiding light for me and for us.