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It is time to choose a government

Monday April 16, 2018 Written by Published in Opinion

Four years ago, the people of the Cook Islands went to the polls and voted back into office the Cook Islands Party (CIP).


The CIP assumed office as government of the Cook Islands in 2010, when it defeated the Democratic (Demo) Party, which had been in office for just over a decade. Parts of the Demo’s term as government was in coalition with the CIP and with certain defectors from the CIP.

The current CIP government led by Henry Puna has now been in government for eight years.

The last four years was not a shoe-in by the CIP but it acquired security through the defection of Demo-elected candidate for the seat of Avatiu-Ruatonga-Palmerston, Albert Nicholas, who took up a ministership with the CIP.

Nicholas later resigned as a Member of Parliament, stood as a CIP candidate in the same seat in a by-election, and won it convincingly.

Since then, for those people wanting to be MPs it was a time to think, plan, and prepare for the next general elections. D-Day has now cometh – June 14, 2018.

I for one am excited. I was an MP for 12 years and certainly mixed it with the CIP and my own party, the Demos.

I rose to leadership of the Demo Party and in parliament as Opposition Leader.

You would think that was enough but I have just turned 60 and I am still very political. In other words, the bug has truly bitten me.

Therefore, I am standing for the Demos for the island of Tongareva (Penrhyn). In addition, so are many others.

I understand there will be 50 candidates standing in this current election. The majority are for the Demos and CIP with maybe a handful of independents.

All of us will of course be trying to convince the electors in our distinctive constituencies that we are the solution or part of it. Moreover, all of us will also be engaged in turning the wheel of the political game to win for ourselves, our supporters and for the parties we represent. That in essence is what an election is.

An election is of course a time for voters to choose. It is the mandate of the people to the candidates and to the winners.

In the electorate, a qualified person votes for the person he or she likes but in doing so, such votes go towards either the Demos or CIP, giving them numbers to form a government. The party with the most gets to govern and the lesser in numbers becomes the Opposition.

People elected either in a minor party or as independents not affiliated to the two main parties are brought in to work together with a main party to form or maintain a government if the results are close. Nevertheless, sometimes they do their own thing, as does the One Cook Islands Movement (OCI).

A bit of history for all. The CIP formed from trade union ideologies. Its founder and first Cook Islands Premier/Prime Minister Papa Albert Henry shaped such ideology to motivate Cook Islanders to form a political party to fight against colonial administration.

It was time then for Maori Cook Islanders to be in the driving seat. From then on, the Westminster parliamentary system was ours to indulge in, up to today.

On the other hand, the Demos were a reaction to the CIP style of governance.

The Demos saw it to be better for the Cook Islands if nepotism and dynasties disappeared.

They focussed on equality and access to government resources by all people, not just the few.

The Demos have also focussed on economic development and financial independence from New Zealand, our former colonial master.

When it became government, the Demo Party installed taxes and generated revenue for the country, enabling it to fund its own administration and projects. Hence, a point of difference from the CIP, who relied heavily on aid support from donor countries.

In principle, I do not think much has shifted from those positions. The Demos still feel that they get into office to clean up the mess created by the CIP. The CIP of course always seem to get into office when the country’s finances are in a better state under the Demos. Correct me if I am wrong on that.

Articles and media statements leading up to this snap-election seem to suggest that if the Demos win they will have to call parliament very quickly to pass a budget to attend to the running of government.

The calling of the snap election has potential to compromise the country. The Demos will of course have to deal with the financial repercussions from the core-tax exemption and with the Mato Vai Water project complications. It will also have to deal with deteriorating roads.

Clearly, the CIP government was indecisive about whether Minister Teariki Heather’s company T&M Heather gets the contract to chip-seal the roads or if it goes to Triad Ltd to hot-mix it. The conflict of interest is an ongoing problem left unresolved.

I suppose people will pass judgement on the government. If it was as hopeless as the Demos claim then the public will vote it out. If the public wish to tolerate more years under the same captain, then it will return the CIP into office.

However, I always believe that two terms of office for any government in the Cook Islands seems to be the limit. Eight years of CIP rule has certainly shown the worn treadmarks of a PM bent on global travel and self-preservation.

Eight years is also enough time to adjudge the rest of the CIP caucus as being as ineffective and silent as the ‘Moai’ of Easter Island. That is not being representative, is it?

Clearly, as a Demo candidate, you would expect me to say that it is time for change. Vote for the Democratic Party.