The three Democratic Party MPs on the select committee that reinstated a criminal ban on same-sex relations have now renounced the decision, three weeks on.
They say their decision was never intended to be final. The Democratic Party has called for a special meeting with the Crimes Bill Select Committee to give “legal guidance” before the report is finalised.
The Committee recently sat to hear submissions on a bill to decriminalise homosexuality in the Cook Islands. The MPs on the committee (three supporting the Government, and three Demos) agreed to reinstate jail sentences for “indecent acts between men” and sodomy.
Select committee chairman Tingika Elikana said their decisions was prompted by an outcry from some members of the community – including the Religious Advisory Council.
Elikana announced the decision nearly three weeks ago, with interviews and a press statement saying the decision to reinstate the Crime Act 1969 provisions was based on public submissions.
But yesterday, a “joint statement” from unnamed representatives of the Democratic Party disputed Elikana announcement: “It is the understanding of the three Democrat Select Committee members that the Committee did not reach any such final decision.”
The three Demo MPs involved in the committee’s deliberations were Selina Napa, William “Smiley” Heather and Tetangi Matapo.
The committee’s decision is to be reported to Parliament’s first sitting in 2020, which will vote on whether to accept that decision.
The Democratic Party said it had become clear since a recent meeting that questions should have been raised by the Select Committee members on a number of written and oral submissions they received.
“The submissions which proposed endorsing the continued criminalisation of homosexuality and extension of anti-gay law should have been challenged on the basis of the fundamental human rights of every individual entrenched in the Cook Islands Constitution,” the statement said.
The Democratic Party also expressed concerns that the reinstatement of criminal clauses was in breach of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, to which Cook Islands is a signatory, and the nation’s own Constitution.
This comes after threats to boycott the Cook Islands as a tourist destination.