Henry Puna has called for the public to remain calm about the Crimes Bill changes, reiterating that the final decision will be made by Parliament. A Parliamentary select committee has reinstated “indecent acts between two men” and sodomy as crimes – but the Prime Minister emphasised it would have to go through proper process.
“It then becomes subject to due process which can be quite stringent if it impacts on any provision of the Constitution, as it might. There is no guarantee that it will survive this process.”
The Constitution requires the law to protect all people from “discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion, opinion, belief, or sex.”
But it also goes on to say that individual rights may be constrained “in the interests of public safety, order or morals”.
The Constitution does not define “morals”.
Lawyer Heinz Matysik said if a client wished to challenge the criminal clause as breaching their constitutional rights, they would have a case. “The word ‘morals’ is very subjective.”
Henry Puna said if people wished to have more time to discuss this important issue, then Parliament would no doubt take that into consideration.
“This is an issue that should not and must not be politicised for at the end of the day, a clear and definite mandate on this issue from the people of the Cook Islands is absolutely necessary,” the Prime Minister said.
“Government will be led and guided by the voice of the people, and no decision will be made on this important issue without that.”