PM key to change, says Koutu Nui head

Tuesday August 09, 2016 Written by Published in Politics

The KEY to reforming the Cook Islands’ political system lies squarely in the hands of Prime Minister Henry Puna, says Koutu Nui president, Terea Mataiapo Paul Allsworth.


Calling for an overhaul of what he describes as the most important component of this country’s governance, its democracy, Allsworth says reform is needed urgently.

And he is calling on the prime minister and the leaders of the Demo Party and One Cook Islands movement to join together and push the reform agenda forward, in a process he says will call for strong political will and commitment.

“Our post voting system needs review, our anti-party hopping legislation needs to be abolished. No MP should be allowed to betray his/her voters. Our electoral boundaries need to be adjusted to decrease parliamentary seats and cater for depopulation.

“The costly electoral court appeals with anomalies resulting from marginal seats that could swing the outcome of being government, need to be urgently reviewed.

“To fix our political system we have to fix the cause of the problem. This starts with a review of what we want our democracy to be.

“In a modern and free democracy, the people are in charge and not the powerful few. But here, officials spend much of their time and our money serving themselves and their party supporters. 

“Elected officials in parliament should carry out the will of the people. The will of the people has said time after time, that we want political reform.

“The sad part of this scenario is that all political parties have said publicly in their manifestos that they will push for political reform once in power. But as we all know, things change when parties and people are in power. Their needs come first before the needs of the people. Once again, political reform gets shifted to the backburner and forgotten.”

Allsworth said the PM and the leaders of the opposition coalition must meet and talk with the people and traditional leaders.

“They should allow a grace period of national consultation and dialogue with the iti Tangata and pae enua to see what shape our new democracy will take. And then in an action similar to the public sector reform, they must introduce key legislative laws that will transform our new governance system.

“Knowing that a two-thirds majority of MPs is required to change our Constitution will put pressure on each individual MP to stand up and support the overhaul of our democracy.”

Whatever new model of democracy was decided upon, that decision must be in the hands of the people, and not just a few elected officials, Allsworth said. 

Most people who had endured and were still living in the Cook Islands following the public reform crisis days, would know how things had developed over the years, he added.

“We faced some major reforms in our public sector, with radical legislative changes that had plans for a smaller-sized government delivering efficient and effective services.

“Major gaps and weaknesses were fixed so that we would never face another public sector meltdown.

At the same time, productive incentives were introduced so that the private sector, which pays most of our taxation revenue, would grow and be sustainable.”

However, indicators now showed the public sector was growing again, Allsworth said.

 “So what is the problem today? In my view, we were so busy trying to fix broken parts of our public and private sector system, we totally forgot to overhaul our most important governance component, and that is our democracy.

“I am talking about our outdated Constitution, the supreme laws of our nation and our related legislative laws that govern our electoral system and the machinery of government that empowers our daily lives.”

Many concerned and passionate Cook Islanders had tried in one way or another over the years, to reach out and say their piece in the name of political reform but their words had fallen on deaf ears, Allsworth said.

“These have included people like Iaveta Short, Ron and Marjorie Crocombe, John Herman, Jon Jonassen, Mike Tavioni and others. We have had other Cook Island scholars and academics speak their mind on this very topic.

“Political commentators such as Mata McNair, Norman George and Wilkie Rasmussen have continued the narrative and debate on political reform in one way or another in order to come up with better solutions to fix our broken political system.

“Even new MP Rose Brown has mooted the theoretical idea of a Government of National Unity.

However, in my view, getting two or three political parties working together will only be a short term solution to a long term problem.”

As this year’s celebration of 51 years of self-government came to an end, there was much to be happy about and much to be sad about, said Allsworth.

 “It depends which side of the coin you are on. The elite and those in power will rejoice, but those less fortunate, struggling and living in the outer islands, are worse off.

 “As a small island state, it is time for the Cook Islands to make these changes for the integrity, credibility and cost of our nation.

“We want the best leaders and managers in public office, not the best politicians.”            


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