Exclusive interview with New Zealand republican, Lewis Holden

Friday, May 25, 2007

Wikinewsie Gabriel Pollard interviewed Lewis Holden, the chair of the Republican Movement and a noted blogger who writes about New Zealand's constitution from a republican's perspective. [He is not to be confused with New Zealand economist Lewis Holden.]

In New Zealand, Queen Elizabeth II is the de jure head-of-state, holding the title Queen of New Zealand, despite having very little actual political influence. Surveys sometimes conducted shows that one in three New Zealanders generally support a republic in New Zealand. Holden, living in Auckland, New Zealand, says that it is a way for New Zealanders to show that New Zealand is truly an independent country, standing on and emphasising our own strong tradition of democracy and politics. "I believe a republic is important to mark New Zealand’s place on the map."

The issue isn’t that the Queen is doing a bad job, it’s that she’s doing the wrong job – the position of Sovereign has become symbolically out of step with New Zealand’s aspirations for itself.

In 1997, after reading the book New Zealand: Republic by Alan Cook and Barry Wheelan, Holden became a republican, three years after he first heard about it in a speech by former New Zealand Prime Minister Jim Bolger.

23-year-old Holden decided to start his fifth website, Holden Republic, mainly due to his interests in republicanism the Internet in general, and being a debater at heart.

As a way to help New Zealand make its mark on the map, Holden says that the international confusion over New Zealand needs to be cleared up. "Some think we’re part of Australia, some think we’re a colony of Britain and others just don’t know we exist." He also cites that there is confusion over our Governor-General (currently being served by Anand Satynand). He gives Greenland as an example of a country with a governor-general, but is under direct rule from Denmark. He also says that people often think that as a result of New Zealand becoming a republic, the flag will have to change, but says that this is also not true, and needs to be clarified, "My own personal view is that change should only be by referendum(s), perhaps with different designs put to the New Zealand public – as to when that happens, before or after we become a republic, I don’t know." Fiji's flag still retains the Union Jack, despite being a republic since 1987, and Hawii retaining the Union Jack as well despite being a state of the U.S..

Despite being a strong supporter of a republic, he believes that neither monarchists, nor republicans are the better patriot, "monarchists say republicans are disloyal to the Queen, republicans say monarchists are disloyal to New Zealand." He does believe that both have New Zealand's future at heart, but have different views and conclusions about it. He does say that he has often been labelled as a "traitor", and admits once that he was threatened with sedition charges, but "It never would have flown."

Although he is not sure whether or not his blog has actually helped his cause, "I’d like to think so, but I can’t really say for sure." But he does know that several other blogs such as Kiwiblog, NZ Monarchy and Queen and Country have now joined the debate over the possibility of New Zealand becoming a republic. Creating the Holden Republic blog, Holden says, was a way for him to articulate the case of New Zealand becoming a republic.

In 2003, Holden became involved with the Republican Movement, a member of Common Cause, and is now the chairman. During his course of involvement with the organisation, he has helped with research and analysis. When he was elected to be the chair of the organisation, he pondered about shutting down the blog, but his readers urged him keep going.

"Common Cause is a group through which Commonwealth republican groups can work together to share information and ideas."

Lewis Holden says he is, despite not being a big petrol head, a Holden fan; of course.

This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.