Stop to vaka-jumping seems popular call

Wednesday July 11, 2018 Published in Letters to the Editor
New cabinet minister Rose Toki Brown pictured during her swearing-in last week. 18071004 New cabinet minister Rose Toki Brown pictured during her swearing-in last week. 18071004

Dear Editor,

There has been much anguish in the Opposition camp since the news came out of the swearing-in of three new Cabinet Ministers by the Cook Islands Party.

Monday's front page headline declaring, “It's not over yet”, seemed to be cold comfort to callers to a weekly radio show that day.

There seemed to be utter disbelief that the Demos had let victory slip through their fingers when they had more numbers than the incumbent party.

Callers accused the interim cabinet ministers of jumping the gun and accused the three interim cabinet ministers of swapping sides at will.

They couldn't see that two of the three are not affiliated to any party: That is the aiteanga of the word “independent.” It means they can support whichever side offers them the best deal.

And the Tupapa MP is the one and only elected member of OCI, so he too is able to join any coalition as he sees fit.

However, callers didn't see it that way, with one calling for a change of law to prevent MPs swapping political sides. One of the guest speakers, a former CIP MP turned Demo executive, totally agreed with that sentiment.

 E te iti tangata, the law already exists to stop politicians swapping sides.

It is called the Electoral Amendment Act. It's often referred to as the anti-party hopping law or anti vaka-jumping law.

That law is the reason that party hopper Albert Nicholas, a Demo until he was enticed to become a cabinet minister - agreed to submit himself to a by-election. The purpose of the by-election was to rebrand Albert as a true blue CIP member.

The anti vaka-jumping law is part of the reason that the short lived leadership of the Demo Party by CIP MP Rose Brown was abruptly terminated. It seems that Rose baulked at the prospect of the uncertainties of a by-election and that was the end of that experiment. Whatever the case, it seemed a convenient exit in order to clear the way for the Demos to choose a new Arataki to lead them to victory at the elections.

Fast forward to the 2018 general elections with the Demos not scoring enough seats to govern but neither did the CIP. In other words, the electoral race was still on until the magic number of 13 representatives was achieved. Whatever else one thinks of the CIP - with their foreign policy going against the grain of great swathes of the public, they certainly are adept at playing a local version of a Game of Thrones.

In the elections, Rose Toki Brown won as an independent after being dumped as the CIP candidate after the party objected to her trying to cover the field with daughter Tehani as a Demo and herself as a CIP candidate.

Mother and daughter won their seats with wide margins and Brown is now an interim cabinet minister pending the outcome of the electoral petitions. It's interesting to note that now that Brown has joined the CIP juggernaut, any talk of challenging her seat seems to have faded away.

While Tina Browne did not win her seat, the Demos cling to the hope that situation may change as they attempt to unseat some of the CIP in four out of six electoral petitions lodged. Meanwhile, the CIP want to oust the Ngatangiia MP. And so it goes on.

If the election night results felt like a rollercoaster ride, the swearing-in of the new interim ministers came as a bombshell for some, jubilation for others and disappointment to those hoping or expecting to have been appointed cabinet ministers.

C'est la vie in the rough and tumble of political life in the Cook Islands.

My only hope is that amongst all the political jockeying, that the national interest is kept foremost in mind in their deliberations.

The late US President John F Kennedy expressed it best when he famously said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.

            Noeline Browne

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