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OPINION: Be the leader you want to follow

Friday 11 June 2021 | Written by Thomas Tarurongo Wynne | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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OPINION: Be the leader you  want to follow
Caren Rangi, second from left, was the winner of the inaugural Pacific Governance Leader Award sponsored by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples. SUPPLIED/ 21061118

Knowing as many of us do that in so many jurisdictions around the Pacific and at home, the subtle bribery of position or job and the benefit this can bring to a whole family can ‘quiet’ the need for justice, writes Thomas Tarurongo Wynne.

In 2018 Tonga’s then Minister of Internal Affairs, ‘Akosita Lavulavu, and her husband, former cabinet minister ‘Etuate Lavulavu, were arrested on fraud related charges.

The charges include three counts of obtaining by false pretenses and three counts of knowingly dealing with forged documents. Both were found guilty this month on criminal charges of obtaining over $500,000 pa’anga (NZ$ 316,122) and will be sentenced on July 2, concluding one of the largest fraud cases by public servants in the Tongan courts in recent years.

This should be a lesson for us all.

As we grapple with the news this week of a former Cook Islands Minister of Cabinet and prominent lawyer being found guilty of sexual assault and potentially facing prison, it should be clear that our own backyard is littered with its own historical and current cases of corruption.

Be it the abuse of religious power, governmental or political power – power is a drug far more toxic then anything known to man and something that should be treated with the utmost care or it will come back to bite you and bite you hard.

Some have commented to me of this current case, that the only difference between this case and other prominent public figures is that he just got caught, while others roam freely, sitting at the front of functions, being honoured as they do, despite their dark secrets, that actually aren’t actually secret at all to any of us.

Some in fact have committed crimes of this same sexual nature for most of their careers, and have found promotion rather than condemnation for their abuse of power and the abuse of power of a sexual nature.

One cannot but wonder if the current case found guilty, was still a member of Cabinet, whether this sordid event would have ever seen the light of day.

Knowing as many of us do that in so many jurisdictions around the Pacific and at home, the subtle bribery of position or job and the benefit this can bring to a whole family can ‘quiet’ the need for justice and instead all become complicit in this sordid act, and allow this behaviour to continue.

Because it lives in the dark and, working as a counsellor in the Cook Islands, I am all too aware of those that hold high office and low, yet have left a trail of hurt and pain for young women, scattered throughout their journey and enabled by our silence.

This current case is merely a pointer to the wider endemic problem we have at home and in other jurisdictions, where too often men in power, though women are not always excluded from this group, use their position to prey on those around them and do so because we say nothing when given the chance to say something.

These gross and inexcusable offences and instances are never a surprise for those that work in their vicinity or to those past victims, because the one that finally catches them was never the first.

And why we should take note of another public announcement this week and this time in New Zealand of someone in leadership, as our own Vaine Toa, Caren Rangi was the winner of the inaugural Pacific Governance Leader Award sponsored by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples as part of Women on Boards at the Governance NZ awards event.

Caren is on the board of our own Cook Islands Investment Corporation, and I am fortunate to have her as chair for our Pacific Home Care board.

She continues to live out the fact that leadership can have integrity as its guide, that it can be compassionate and make courageous decisions and that it can work hard for the good of the many without quietly building one’s own kingdom, or the benefit of one’s own supporters.

She like many other quality leaders holds integrity up as a mirror and torchlight to guide her path and ours and one that I am privileged to follow.

They are out there, people we can trust and follow, those we can emulate and be confident that they have our best interests at heart and see a prosperous future for us all.

But we can’t serve two masters, and if the leader you follow does not hold these values to be true, in the end the one you choose is the one you too will become more like.