Norman George: Our shared values not met

Monday June 17, 2019 Written by Published in Opinion
Prime minister Henry Puna with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern. Lawyer Norman George in his weekly column The Sift examines the relationship between the two countries. 19061605 Prime minister Henry Puna with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern. Lawyer Norman George in his weekly column The Sift examines the relationship between the two countries. 19061605

This is not a post mortem examination of the Cook Islands-New Zealand relationship. The relationship is not dead.

That’s why we must ask now, before it’s too late, have we the Cook Islands people been a good loyal faithful partner of Aotearoa?

It usually takes a world war to prove that. We easily proved that in the first and second World Wars. We also participated in Korea, and South Vietnam with New Zealand. There is no question of the loyalty issue then.

The greatest test for us is to sift and sieve through the foundation pyramid of “shared values” with New Zealand. Shared or core values are the key and cornerstone of the relationship.

What does it mean? It means what we do must match the same standards that New Zealanders have.

What is not acceptable in New Zealand, cannot be acceptable here! No more, no less!

Public opinion and public morality cannot be expected to be exact, but the spirit is the same: common decency to one another, respecting other peoples rights to privacy and to express their opinions without fear or favour.

We should follow their example on how the rule of law and judicial system operates, of how the New Zealand Parliament functions, observe how the prime minister, Cabinet ministers and MPs in NZ function, even follow closely the example of the Governor-General of New Zealand.

This work is confined to the last 10 years – to go back 54 years would require a whole book.

Let’s start off with the New Zealand side of it. Our New Zealand citizenship is as firm as concrete, no threats, no reviews, no amendments and modifications. We are in fact treated as a special province of New Zealand. This is designed by New Zealand to create a one-way right of entry by Cook Islanders into New Zealand.

It does not work the other way around. Kiwis cannot shift to live in the Cook Islands. This is when size has a lot to do with it. Free entry by New Zealanders would flood the population disproportionately.

In return our governments of the past and present have granted New Zealanders and Australians priority with residency and permanent residency as well as business investments.

We enjoy free medical referrals to Auckland, access to New Zealand schools, universities, sports academies, not to forget economic aid support! New Zealand stoically handles our defence and foreign affairs.

The only ruffles are from us, when prime minister Henry Puna one day woke up from a hangover and decided we need a seat at the United Nations.

This is an uninformed approach: we cannot have two separate sets of New Zealand citizens competing at the UN with separate votes.

True we are members of UN bodies like WHO, FAO, and UNDP, but these are subordinate bodies of the UN, not the United Nations proper!

The Sift highlights the following examples of the Cook Islands not meeting the standards of our “shared values” with New Zealand:

•Turning our Parliament into a graveyard of inactivity, survival or the need to sit, only in order to secure the money supply. New Zealanders will never tolerate this!

•Highly restrictive free rights of debate by the opposition in Parliament under an oppressive and inexperienced Speaker.

•Very few select committees sitting, thus restricting the right of citizens to participate in the law-making process by not being given the opportunity to attend the sittings of a select committee and speak before it.

•We had a CIP minister convicted of corruption and sent to prison.

•We currently have an MP on the run from the law in New Zealand, holding his seat in Parliament to aid the political survival of the prime minister. Such an MP in New Zealand would be tossed out of the Beehive into Cook Strait!

•We had pensioner bank accounts raided and money seized by a certain government department … tut tut! This would never happen in New Zealand.

•Then there is the direct attack twice on the integrity of the Court of Appeal by deputy prime minister Mark Brown after the Rakahanga petition’s successful appeal by Tina Browne. This hit the epicentre of our judicial system. I describe this as a brain damaged reaction by Mark Brown – he would never get away with it in New Zealand, and neither should he get away with it here.

•Meanwhile our attorney-general Puna adopts the willfully blind approach of “I see nothing, I hear nothing, I do nothing” like the comedy character Schultz from the old TV series Hogan’s Heroes.

•We have a police commissioner who allowed two cabinet ministers who had been involved in careless driving incidents including injury to get off scot-free! In New Zealand, both would have lost their parliamentary seats. A New Zealand police commissioner was forced to resign when he was accused of interfering with a breath test involving his partner.

•We have examples of a former and current Queen’s Representative making willfully wrong decisions to dissolve Parliament and call a general election, in favour of directions from their political masters. The correct procedure is to call on the opposition to attempt to form a new government first, and when they fail, dissolve the Parliament.

As much as my patriotic love for our country endures, I mourn our failure to expect those Cook Islanders in high office to achieve the benchmark of complete impartiality beyond reproach in high office. We have failed miserably. I grieve for this shameful failure.   

Prime minister Henry Puna’s private life - everyone knows it is shambolic! This office does not belong to Henry Puna or the Cook Islands Party. Ask New Zealanders if this behaviour is acceptable, and the answer is a thunderous no! Kua rava teia! Ka Kite.    

Norman George

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