Demo letter raises further issues

Tuesday March 13, 2018 Published in Letters to the Editor
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Demo Party finance spokesman James Beer pictured during Ardern’s visit to the Opposition leader’s office last week. 18031219 New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Demo Party finance spokesman James Beer pictured during Ardern’s visit to the Opposition leader’s office last week. 18031219

Dear Editor,

The Democratic Party’s open letter to New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, published in the Cook Islands News on March 10, raises many critical issues worth further discussion.


I can only refer to a few of those issues in this letter. First, as a matter of procedure. Why does the letter come from the deputy leader of the Opposition as opposed to the leader of the Opposition? Failing a satisfactory explanation, this might suggest that in regard to such important matters there are reservations within the party on its leadership and ability to follow through on policy.

And why does the party choose open letters to New Zealand prime ministers on issues of great importance for the people of the Cook Islands before engaging in a vigorous public debate within the Cook Islands beforehand?

On certain issues (eg Audit Office reports), party parliamentarians have raised the matter relatively briefly during parliamentary debates. But on other issues such as competition policy and law and order), it does not appear that the party has been active in raising such issues before the public in any sustained way.

Do either CINews or the Herald refuse to publish the views of the Demo Party? Does CITV say “we don’t want to interview Demo Party spokespersons” on such issues?

The Cook Islands public might well welcome more enlightened open discussion, most especially on matters of national importance.

The open letter refers to the Kirk-Henry exchange of letters. As the open letter suggests, it was a basis for much of the action undertaken surrounding the Winebox Affair, which directly affected New Zealand’s financial interests.

However, I would respectfully suggest that to use the Kirk-Henry exchange of letters as a basis for New Zealand action in support of the Demo Party to address the four issues raised in the open letter is, at best, premature. 

At worst, some observers have seen at least hints from time to time over the years that a certain sector of the people living in the Cook Islands feels that the Cook Islands cannot govern itself and that effective control must go back to New Zealand.

Is the Demo Party saying that neither it (if and when it comes into power), nor appointed officials can be trusted to act in accordance with principles of good governance, the rule of law and genuine respect for the Constitution? 

I certainly hope that is not the view of the Demo Party. Many people living in the Cook Islands would argue that there are indeed solid, professional persons capable of holding key positions in areas of governance and exercising their functions free of political interference if they were allowed to do so.

In my view, the open letter does raise four issues that merit further public discussion within the Cook Islands. It is hoped that the letter will at least kickstart substantive debate on these and other important issues. 

Two aspects of the debate might be of particular interest. First, it is easy for an opposition party to propose all sorts of wonderful ideas to improve political governance. However, did questions of law and order only begin in the last few years under the CIP government and everything was wonderful before then? 

Was political reform 20 years ago supported by Demo Party governments and opposed by only the CIP? And has the CIP been in power over the last 18 years since the first draft of a Competition Bill was prepared? No. So why then didn’t the Demo Party do something about it when it was in power?

All opposition parties make great promises when they are in opposition, but when they get into office it’s jobs for their cronies and sadly their pious declarations of good governance are quickly forgotten (same applies to parties in power when re-elected, of course). 

Why should 2018 be any different? And would a government want the key decisions relevant to basis of its political power to be given to an independent electoral commission? That is a key question as any constitutional amendment would need to have the support of the government of the day.

Over the years, New Zealand has provided valuable and much appreciated support to the Cook Islands and its people. New Zealand (and others, including the Commonwealth), could assist the Cook Islands in the areas identified in the open letter and elsewhere. In saying that, however, may I urge that we should look to ourselves first to lead the way in identifying and devising solutions to problems we face that are acceptable to the majority of the people of the Cook Islands. After all, wasn’t that the intention of both the Cook Islands and New Zealand in 1965, reflected in the views of our early CIP and Demo Party political leaders? 

I am sure that there may be both challenging and interesting times ahead for both political parties in this regard.

            Political Observer

            (Name and address supplied)

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