It’s a long, long way to Tipperary

Monday April 13, 2015 Written by Wilkie Rasmussen Published in Politics
No place for idealism: Former politician Wilkie Rasmussen pictured in Parliament in 2013. No place for idealism: Former politician Wilkie Rasmussen pictured in Parliament in 2013.

Today we revive a regular column by Wilkie Rasmussen, lawyer, former politician and until recently, leader of the Democratic Party.

This newspaper maintains a strong stand as being politically neutral, and is unaligned with any party or politicians, past, present and future.

Maori Cook Islanders love to sing. Give us a guitar and/or a “huakalele” and a range of tunes and melodies will just roll off our tongues. It’s like water off a duck’s back. It’s second nature to us. 

Maybe it is an inherent Polynesian genetic makeup that makes us sound like Elvis or Englebert Humperdinck if we want to. The younger generation of course would beat any rap artist or be on top of modern singing and musical trends on any given day. 

I hope you readers can see what I’m leading up to. Yes, of course, if there is anything better than singing to us - it is politics. 

With politics come these rather unsavoury attributes: gossip, backstabbing, snobbery, deceit, lies, dishonesty and many more. 

These are things that of course make life on ‘The Rock’ as some people call it, ‘exciting’.

 Interestingly to me anyway (maybe because of my anthropological background), I see politics for many Maori Cook Islanders as very much like breaking into a song - a very natural aspect of their lives.

As a Maori, despite my Scandanavian names, I boast linkage to both forms of expression.

 I said linkage, not expertise, because I love singing the most when I blend my voice with the beautiful voices of the mamas and papas in church.

 Conversely, when I am in cohorts with a bunch of waylaid ‘part-time’ atheists on some occasions, it’s a case of ‘move over Prince Tui Teka’. 

In politics, I used to love debating when I was in Parliament. The skulduggery was the part I hated.

Last week I announced my exit as Leader of the Democratic Party.

 Some people were surprised, but I think many would accept that if you are no longer a Member of Parliament, leading a major political party from the sidelines is not really sustainable. Although of course the Cook Islands Party was led by Henry Puna for four years after he lost his seat in 2006. He regained it in 2010 from Apii Piho.

For me, however, it was about doing what is right by me.

 Some people did ask me to stay on and fight but right now my passion for politics is gone. I think that’s because the longer I stayed in politics the more I was afraid of being turned into a ‘moron’ – a political animal driven by greed, power and ego, disguised by declarations of fighting for my people and/or doing what my constituency wanted me to do.

In that case, I would rather sing off-key. The Democratic Party will hold its conference on Tuesday morning and I’m not sure that I will go.

 My reluctance is fuelled by my acute awareness of the hypocrisy, the lies and the apparent incompetence of our current crop in both major camps.  In some cases, their understanding of what being in office means is totally confused.

 What I hear from many of them is mostly about supplying friends and families with the “crème-brulee” dessert – the spoils of government.

  On Tuesday morning I will be defending a humble young Pukapuka guy who claims he was physically abused by police.  To me, he is more deserving of my attention, as he plucked up enough courage to challenge authority when it is not commonplace for someone like him to do something like that. 

You see, that’s me: always standing up for those less fortunate than I am and almost always at my own cost.

 But I’m afraid that the conference will merely illustrate the wide differences between empowerment and being underprivileged.

There is one thing I have always maintained in my life, and that is never to lose my sense of idealism.

 Yes, I have been there, thick as thieves with politics, the politicians and the beneficiaries.

 But I have always refused to compromise my principles.

 I was attacked viciously for my stance - like not using my authority to appoint someone to a political job or not carrying out what some people wanted done for their own self-interest. 

There is a song that was sung by British soldiers on the march during World War 1.


 It included the words, ’It’s a long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go’. For politics in the Cook Islands, even after 50 years of self-government, there is still a very, very long way to go.  


1 comment

  • Comment Link Ngereteina Puna Tuesday, 14 April 2015 15:25 posted by Ngereteina Puna

    I've never forgotten what you did for me when I was Speaker of Parliament and you were the newly appointed Cook Islands High Commissioner in Wellington. I was in Wellington on a CPA-sponsored study visit for new speakers at the NZ Parliament and you were told by the newly installed DEMO government to ignore me and not provide me with official courtesies.You ignored those instructions at your peril. Since then I have admired your stand for principle,even now as you move on in your life and my wife and I,with our family wish you God's blessing.
    Yours sincerely
    Ngereteina Puna

Leave a comment