Blowing His Own Trumpet

Shofar sounding by Jewish guru

Guru to sound Shofar at Speakers’ Corner opening

By Alan Tristram

The Kāpiti Coast’s best-known councillor, K Gurunathan – ‘Guru’ to both his friends and enemies – says he’ll be blowing his own shofar ( Jewish trumpet) to re-open Speakers’ Corner in the Kāpiti Civic Centre next Saturday.

Guru speaking pre-shofar

Guru says he’s been practising for weeks for the official opening of the corner – Paepae Kai Korero — on Saturday, April 6, at 12 noon.

The shofar (שופר‎), usually made from a ram’s horn, is traditionally blown on Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.

It was used to announce the start of holidays and in processions. And in the Book of Joshua, shofarot (plural of shofar) were used as part of the battle plan to capture Jericho:

Here in Kāpiti, the Friends of Free Speech say Guru’s shofar blowing will announce a special Maori opening ceremony at the special site just west of the new KCDC building.

And Guru adds: “This will herald a new democratic era on the Coast, where those formerly ‘unheard’…or even ignored…will have a chance to stake their claim on the democratic space.

‘A safety valve’

“It will be a safety valve for local democracy.”

Mayor Jenny Rowan will  give the first ‘free speech’ from the new Speakers’ Corner– and other key speakers will include Maori leaders and the well-known local poet Gill Ward.

Speakers’ Corner will be dedicated to the ‘democratic right of free and unfettered speech – with an absolute minimum of rules and regulations,’ says the chair of Friends of Free Speech, Ron Wilkinson.

There will be just two ‘bookable’ spaces – a half-hour at noon on Wednesdays, and another half hour at noon on Saturdays.

Code of conduct for speakers

A brief ‘code of conduct’ for speakers says:

‘Speakers’ Corner is your platform. You can use it express any idea, opinion or viewpoint as long as it is lawful.

“Our council, which is the landowner, says amplifiers and loudspeakers should not be used.

‘The area is intended for citizens, but not for anyone wanting to use it for commercial gain.’

The code also suggests that speakers:

  • Respect other people’s opinions
  • Avoid offensive language
  • Be courteous to other speakers and listeners
  • Limit your time to a maximum of 15 minutes

The Friends of Free Speech, who are friendly ‘guardians’ of the unique new community asset hope to unveil a timber stump on the site, either at the opening or soon after.The stump will provide a handy prop for speakers.

It will also have a plaque attached, setting out the ideals for this new democratic initiative on the Coast.

(Strictly speaking, the launching of Speakers’ Corner is a re-launching. It was first approved by the KCDC in 2002 after an approach by journalist K Gurunathan, but after one or two functions it fell into disuse).

Another member of the Friends’ group, Alan Tristram, says that, as far as he is aware, the Kapiti Speakers’ Corner will be one of the very few areas in the country set up on a public space, and approved by the local authority, as a venue for free speech at all times.

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