Kelvin Davis accuses Rawiri Waititi of 'encouraging' prisoners to riot

updated By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has told Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi is "basically encouraging the incitement of disorder in prisons."

The minister said today it was irresponsible behaviour that endangered the lives of Corrections officers.

“A publication encouraging prisoners to riot quoting a member of the Māori Party has been distributed. I said from the beginning that politicians involving themselves in some Corrections matters could only serve to embolden and encourage more events that endanger the lives of prisoners and staff.

"It was then and it is now irresponsible behaviour.”

The minister was referring to a People Against Prisoners Aotearoa publication, which had included a  quote made elsewhere by the Māori Party co-leader: “When injustice becomes law, defiance becomes duty.”

The minister's office said a concerned prisoner gave it to Corrections staff who passed it on to the police.

'Endangering lives'

Davis continued: "And I hear the member over there saying that this is cheap.

"The member over there is basically encouraging the incitement of disorder in prisons by saying this publication is acceptable. He’s endangering the lives of Corrections officers and it is unacceptable.”

The minister has come under fire from the opposition over the alleged riot, which resulted in a series of fires that destroyed the older part of the prison in early January.

Also, yesterday, a district court judge ruled Corrections had broken its own rule over the treatment of prisoners, saying the treatment of one woman was degrading and inhumane.

But Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi says he has no idea how Davis came to that conclusion.

He says he was involved in the prisoners’ dispute early on but he got there the following day.

“I went to mediate and ensure they were heard.”

Waititi said the minister had been absent during the alleged riot and government inaction had been well documented.