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19 July 2022

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OPINION: ‘Democracy is under threat’: Part two

Saturday 23 July 2022 | Written by John Scott | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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OPINION: ‘Democracy is under threat’: Part two
Parliament of the Cook Islands.

If a Government demonstrates so little respect for its duties under our foundation law, the Constitution, and can get away with it for want of being challenged, do your readers not think for one moment that therein is a temptation in itself to venture into other administrative areas, writes John Scott, former Clerk of Parliament.

This is part two of the column published in yesterday, Friday, July 22 edition, under the headline ‘Democracy is under threat’.

And when a small faction within Government sees these opportunities and knows it can continue the abuse unchecked, even from within its own ranks, then we are in serious trouble.

The rule of law is not just some trite, fancy slogan. It is the basis upon which successful societies are built but most importantly, where all are concerned it, it means that the law applies equally to everyone and that from the Prime Minister down to the man on the street, the same rule applies.

But when a small clique, with the power of the state at its disposal and opposition mute, or intimidated into silence, a breeding ground for malfeasance on a grand scale is spawned with all the attendant evils of cronyism and corruption the result.

And that I believe is where we have come to under the administration of the Cook Islands Party which if successful in forming the next government will take that as an endorsement of its style of administration and acceptance that all the constitutional disobedience and other questionable activity, infidelity and untrustworthiness which people speak of, but do nothing about, are standards of behaviour which reflect those of our society and give real meaning to the aphorism “you get the government you deserve”.

If voters would only think about the depths to which we have sunk they would realise this is their chance for a new beginning and opportunity to make a change and provide the environment to finally clean up our act. Calls for corruption enquiries are positive steps.

Mr Editor, your letters column last Wednesday, 13 July ran a brief letter from me asking Crown Law to comment on whether criminal offences would have been committed where transgressions of the nature I have described in this piece were concerned but, perhaps not surprisingly, confronted by the challenge of the dichotomy of their allegiance to the State or the Constitution, Crown Law had no response.

That then being the case, I propose that this letter be forwarded to the Commissioner of Police to institute, with a truly independent agency, and with the utmost urgency (the NZ Audit Office being somewhere in the mix) to lay charges under s. 118 of the Crimes Act (Contravention of a Statute).

To conclude, it is ironic when corruption is receiving attention in the present campaign, and not before time, there are announcements from Government that corruption is suddenly very much on its radar. Like its reversal on the Crimes Bill (amazing how the homophobia in its own ranks just disappeared on the eve of a general election!) and the patently obvious permanent residency ceremony the other day. The smart voter will quickly recognise the transparency of all these which I am told have already been greeted with derision on social media.

In its various recent releases, we are also told that there has been an Anti-Corruption Committee in existence for the last 11 years and there has been close and useful collaboration among key Government enforcement agencies.  If that is so, and if it were the least bit effective, why does the smell of rampart corruption still pervade our society? And it has taken this long to come up with a draft policy?!

Putting cynicism and gullibility aside however there are some useful pointers in these MFEM’s publications which do not help our Prime Minister in any way. Take for example the MFEM policy on fraud and corruption. The fraud/corruption definition inter alia is any act or omission, including a misrepresentation, that knowingly or recklessly misleads, or attempts to mislead, a party to obtain a financial or other benefit or to avoid an obligation. Would your readers not be inclined to the view that the constitutional and other failures enumerated above fit nicely within this definition.

And what about obstructive practices and the references to making false statements; interfering with disclosure of information and impeding audit or access to information?

And finally, and of personal interest – Retaliation against whistle-blowers – which description could well apply to me having been whistle-blowing for years. Is this where I can now seek redress for government systematically ruining my egg farming business with its deceptive claims to be promoting import substitution, GO LOCAL and food security? These noble and important policies will only succeed if there is a genuine commitment to them but, like the multiple failures to obey the law by those who govern us, their selective activation and retributive potential just create false hope, losses and more distrust.

The MFEM draft media release is inviting public comment and that these be sent to Dr Jim Gosselin. Well, they now have mine and I shall be forwarding them to Jim.

  • John Scott, a former Clerk of Parliament, is a poultry farmer and runs Scotts Farm in Muri. He has been critical of Government’s decision to remove import levy on eggs and pork. The views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.