The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6, 1889. THE GOVERNMENT AND TE KOOTI.
Although a few of the pro-Ministerial papers of the colony m whose eyes it it impossible for the present administration even to be mistaken do not scruple to applaud alike their inaction and their action m reference to the Te Kooti episode, yet with those rare exceptions almost the entire press of the colony regards the whole business as an exceedingly unsatisfactory exhibition of blundering mismanagement. The 'New Zealand Herald " which may fairly be regarded as the leading paper of the colony, and which is Atkinsonian m its proclivities, for example can only say that the Government having 1 first emphatically declared that m stopping the advance of Te Kooti they would be breaking the law, and yet having done it they " may as well be hanged for a sheep as ft lamb " by shutting him up out of harm's way. The " New Zealand Times " the Wellington Ministerial organ says " :— Te Kooti has been brought before a magistrate and bound over to keep the peace for six months. In default of sureties he will be imprisoned m the Auckland gaol. This is the extraordinary climax of a series of most extraordinary proceedings. We freely admit our inability to understand the principle on which the Government have proceeded 60 far as all known facts go, and according to the very explicit publio statements of the Minister of Justice, it was not Te Kooti who acted m such a way as to provoke a breach of the peace, but the people of Poverty Bay Yet Te Kooti is now arraigned for conduct which the Minister of Justice declared to be perfectly legal and within his lawful rights, and is required to find sureties of the peace. And fulling to find such sureties he will be imprisoned. We cannot bripg ourselves to believe that so deep a wrong can be m contemplation as his imprisonment would be if there were no other warrant for the steps taken than appears m the facts made public. Bat he doubt is doing the Government a great deal of harm, and it is urgently desirable that they should disclose as early as possible their grounds for a change of policy which is as yet unaccountable, and for a course of action which m default of explanation, appears utterly injutifiable. The Government may be able to show conclusively that they are warranted m the strange steps they have taken. But to aypid serious misconception — abroad as well as at home—it is surely desirable that the whole truth should now be made known and the disclosere can hardly have any possible prejudicial effect on the public interests. We fear much that unless the mystery be speedily and satisfactorily cleared up, a very unfortunate color will be given to the accusations perferred by Busden and others against New Zealand Governments of treating the Natives with harshness and injustice. It is important that suph an illusion should be promptly dispelled." The " puily limes" (also a ministerial paper) writes 1 — -" It is as difficult to understand as it isto approve the line of conduct pursued by the Government m the Te Kooti business. From first to last it has been characterised by great indecision and weakness, with just that amount of ultimate activity m the wrong direction which is so often a concomitant of weakness. If the Government were right m forcibly opposing the progress of Te Kooti on his way to Poverty Bay, they Must have been wrong m the beginning m permitting him to stprt upon his journty ; and if they were right m the beginning, then their conduct later cannot possibly be justifiable. Had Te Kooti originally proceeded to visit Poverty Bay as a European would — that is either by himself or with his family, or with such companionship as would fall short of a •' following " m the ÜBual sense of the term — ther can be no doubt that he was entirely within his rights mso doing. It is just possible that the journey would have been a dangerous one to himself, m which case it wouJd have been the duty of the Government to have given him all reasonable protection, and to have repressed the ' rising spirit of active hostility m Poverty .Bay, a spirit that grew apace under the nerveleeeness of the Government. Bat whether Te Kooti was justi fied m taking with him a following which, however peacefully inclined, was still by its mere numbers calculated to endanger the public peace, if* another question, — one indeed upon which it is obviously not within our province to express an opinion. It is clear, however, that if on this point Te Kooti came within the pale of the law later, he equally did so earlier. The Government that found him to have committed an illegal act when Uo was ncaring the end of- his journey, had the means of knowing that he was about to commit one at the start. Why, then, did they not stop him ? Why not soy to him, 1 * If you choose to go to Poverty Bay as an ordinary person would) we cannot
prevent you >j but if you attempt to take with you a following that makes your , visit practically a menace, you shall not be permitted.' On such terms the probability is that Te Kooti would not have elected to go. Instead of taking such a course tho Government permit him to i go, declaring the while that he has a right to do so. They stand idly by while the tumult is arising m Poverty Bay, and then throw themselves earnestly into it, gathering arms, ammuni- ' tion, and men, and putting the country to a very serious expense, when there was no more real danger to the inhabitants of Poverty Bay than there wbb to the dwellers m Princes street. Finally, when Te Kooti, deterred from pursuing a journey that the Government bad practically and m a legal sense sanctioned his undertaking, turns to make his way quietly back to the King Country, he is pursued, arrested, and, for lack of heavy sureties, sent to gaol. Why was he not allowed to return home ? If the Government, with the law officers of the Crown behind them, did not know that Te Kooti's journey waß an illegal one, how could Te Kooti himself be expected to know ? And when the faot was forcibly impressed upon him surely he could do no more than go back again. Detestable as is the record of Te Kooti, he oomes out of this particular business rather better than does the Government, whose weak and inconsistent conduct will, or we are much mistaken, cost the colony some thousands of pounds." Jt will be seen that our Dunedin contemporary takes up precisely the same line of argu ment which we followed when writing recently upon this topic, and its comments upon the inconsistency of the Government throughout the whole business are amply justified by the facts. It is more by good luck than good management that the Te Kooti episode did not develops features of a tragical sort, and it may be questioned whether if he choose to take proceedings m the Supreme Court he would not be successful m maintaining an action for false imprisonment. Probably, however, he will be content to enjoy quietly his regained liberty, and if so then we shall have heard the last of the affair, save to pay the inevitable bill, which when Parliament is asked to vote the money, will probably be found to amount to several hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds ; all of which might have been saved had Mr Mitchelson acted with sufficient determination m the first instance.