While this may seem a bit over the top, the UK recognised that modern slavery was a scourge that needed to be eradicated and that working with the business community was in the best interests of the country, its people and its foreign workers.
Unfortunately it is quite clear that some Cook Islanders in business and in their homes are practising what could be interpreted as modern day slavery to all intents and purposes.
Who are they doing this to?
Would you believe they are doing this to our own people, those abled and those disabled and more importantly to foreign workers?
The Cook Islands is not alone in these unsavoury practices, it also occurs in some of our pacific island neighbours, NZ, Aus, USA, the UK and other civilised countries.
Hard to believe isn’t it, but it is happening right now.
Stories coming out of those countries point to foreign workers having to work in poor conditions, working long hours, being underpaid, passports being withheld and being threatened with the immigration authorities when they complain.
Those stories are well documented in the global news and social media, because they are so anathema to supposedly a civilised world and are so familiar to those exposed to such poor employment practices.
There are similar stories being bandied about here in the modern Cook Islands, believe it or not.
There are some in the Cook Islands who choose to ignore the human rights that we have come to believe we all expect and enjoy. You won’t hear about these unsavoury practices in official circles.
If you look closely at some of your friends and business colleagues, some who employ (I use this term loosely) foreign workers from Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, the Philippines, Europe and also would you believe it from New Zealand something is not quite right in paradise. Some of them are unscrupulous Cook Islanders profiting from the hard work of foreigners and seemingly ignoring the basic tenets of law.
Why? Because they just get them sent home through immigration if they dare to voice their concerns about how they are being treated. They fabricate stories about their workers supposed poor work ethics to justify to immigration why they should be dismissed and sent home.
The workers are too terrified to speak out for fear of reprisal and for everyone sent home there are literally thousands just waiting for an opportunity to work in the Cook Islands.
So knowing those conditions these Cook Islands employers continue to feed off the desperation.
I know some of the local and foreign workers personally and the circumstances that they find themselves in.
These hard-working people are being exploited and made to feel worthless and helpless because of the way they are treated.
They come here to better themselves from the wretched conditions in their own countries.
Is this right? No it blinking well is not.
For those who believe I am making this all up to stir kaka, then you, continue to keep your head buried in the sand like an ostrich.
“What goes round comes round’’ and sooner or later when you least expect it, it will bite you in the bum big time.
As a number of Cook Islands employers who treated their foreign workers abysmally for years have found out when their foreign employees plucked up enough courage to complain. The government will eventually catch you for not paying PAYE, CINSF, work permits and proper wages, it can hurt you when you least expect it and where you least expect it, in your pockets and effect your status and standing in the wider community.
Watch the formal and informal social invitations dry up as those who see you now as an acquaintance rather than a friend or colleague they all thought they knew and respected, shun you, you get the picture?
Our tupuna would be akama with how you are treating these manu’iri to our shores, especially with what happened to us under NZ colonial law pre-1965.
Those Cook Islanders of yesteryear who fought for our independence would be ashamed at what you are doing.
The repercussions and legacy of the way NZ mistreated us are still being felt 50 years after independence. So why are you doing this to our foreign workers?
Why are you doing this to anau?
Why are you doing this to those who cannot defend themselves?
Do you feel so insecure with your lot in life that you have to impose such uncivilised and unchristian conditions on those unable to defend themselves properly?