During campaigns parties often seek membership and ask those people to pledge loyalty with the expectation, therefore, of votes from those members.
Part of the recruitment drive of course involves making sure that these prospects understand what that political party stands for.
For example, what does the Democratic Party represent?
Why should members of the public vote for it to become say the next government in the 2018 general elections?
The constant failure of governments to deliver what they promise does not escape my attention. I was never part of former governments - in particular Democratic Party governments, but my father was a long serving Member of Parliament and minister of the Crown. What I know of his life, has given me some insights into the pros and cons of government.
In some cases, the failure is not deliberate, but the result of the dynamics of the daily activities of government and the decision-making process involved. These make government focus on particular outcomes that are sometimes very different from what was publicly pledged.
I have to say that such changes in direction are part and parcel of the day-to-day demands on government and what it needs to do for the best interest of the people of the Cook Islands.
I believe, however, that the trick is to minimise the demands brought about by the circumstances government finds itself in. And to do that, political parties must, during campaigns, tailor-make their policies to what can be foreseen as the demands of daily governance. This may mean going that extra mile to itemise each and every aspect of people’s lives in particular areas so that there will nothing amiss come delivery time. In other words, the Democratic Party will have to cast a very wide net here in Rarotonga, for instance to maintain a database peculiar to this island.
That is what I currently have in mind and I believe it is achievable: The Democratic Party needs to shake off the old shackles that left voters troubled and unsatisfied. People have to understand that politics is a living thing. It keeps changing no matter what, and those people working with it and affected by it will have to accept the inevitability of change. I believe policies tailored specifically for certain situations can work, and such tailoring must be done in the most innovative way.
For example, the current Cook Islands Party needs to take care of matters that are simple and straightforward, such as sitting in parliament on a regular basis to satisfy the critics who say year-in and year-out that MPs don’t do enough work.
Of course, we know what the outcome is: This government has fallen into the old trap of not calling parliament to sit at all, because as I recall prime minister Henry Puna and Finance minister Mark Brown have claimed that the majority of government’s work does not involve parliament. That may be so, but to discharge its accountability to the public, the government must call parliament into session regardless of what percentage of the work is being done outside Parliament.
Another failed policy or let’s call it a policy that is struggling to have some credibility is the Round Rarotonga Water project, generally known as the Te Mato Vai project.
It has now taken some four years but still the various stages have not been completed properly so that delivery of water to all villages in Rarotonga is top class. And millions and millions of dollars have already spent on it.
The Democratic Party, if it is elected, will have to quickly deal with the outstanding problems it will inherit from the current government. And therein lays the first obstacle for a new government – allocating time and funds to finish outstanding projects. Paying attention to this will inevitably change the course set during the campaign period, unless the Democratic Party has planned for that in its incoming policies, but not at the expense of forfeiting its own policies.
I believe for Rarotonga and indeed for the outer islands, policies must be tailored to suit the particular circumstances. At the moment the Democrats are developing their policies and we are nearly ready to have them crosschecked and tested so the party can present decent policies to the public. By the New Year, the Democrats will have a plan for each island and more specifically for Rarotonga, our central island of commerce and politics. A friend of mine said recently, “the Democrats will get elected if they show innovation.” And that is what I intend to develop within the rank and file of party officials and members.