Justine Flanagan; Parliament is like our utu tree

Saturday June 27, 2020 Published in Letters to the Editor

Dear editor,

Outside Takitumu school stands a grand utu tree. For generations this tree has acted as signpost, shelter, gathering point, and climbing frame.

A month ago a large branch fell.

A papa from the village saw this in a vision, and believes the centre of the tree has rotted. The experts have been called-in to provide a quote.

In a democracy, a petition is a formal request to government. It raises issues and proposes change.

The petition is not discussed within Parliament. It is handed over to a smaller group of MPs, a select committee. The committee meets to listen and consider the view of the public and other interested parties.

Our Parliament is much like this utu tree; under its canopy we determine our direction as a nation. However, the treatment of the last three public petitions reveals a pattern: Government uses Parliament to frustrate the process, and to silence the people.

When the branches of the tree are falling, the core is rotten. It’s time to call in the experts.

This week I have sought expert advice on Parliamentary procedure. In summary, their responses:
* Clerk of the House of Commons (UK): The petition should be referred to a select committee.
* Former Clerk of the Parliament of the Cook Islands: The petition should be referred to a select committee.
* Clerk of the New Zealand House of Representatives; and the New Zealand High Commission. ‘You’re on your own’

Justine Flanagan
Te Vai Ora Maori

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