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11 November 2022

Ruta Mave: Are MPs living up to their ‘honourable’ title?

Monday 19 February 2024 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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Ruta Mave: Are MPs living up to their ‘honourable’ title?
Ruta Tangiiau Mave. Photo: CI NEWS

Oh, dear it seems we do have adulterers in our midst who hold high standing public office. Adultery is not against the law – you can’t be charged for it. But it is against God’s Seventh commandment law; so how many ‘hail Mary’s’ is the penance for breaking it? Ruta Mave writes.

Fiji has dismissed their education minister allegedly involved in a sex and drug scandal with another married member of parliament. (Editor’s note – The former Fijian education minister was dismissed for “insubordination and disobedience” after he ignored legal advice in terminating members of the Fiji National University council). The general secretary of the Alliance Party, the major party in the Fiji coalition government, declined to comment on the scandal but said that “All parliamentarians must remember that they are public officers paid for by the taxpayers, (their) salaries, and the extra privileges that come with the position they are filling. So, the public expect some decorum in the behaviour.”

This sounds reasonable, do we have the same or similar expectation of our parliamentarians?

When Mark Brown said “no one is above the law”, a letter writer Rajend Naidu commented “after reading the Fiji Times quoting Brown saying ‘No one is above the law; and our system of checks and balances has not been compromised - if you are found to be in breach of the law, you will be held to account’. Too right, this is as it should be. The people’s trust and confidence in proper governance can only be sustained when those in power and positions of responsibility in society are held to account for their transgressions. Other countries in the Pacific can draw from the Cook Islands PM’s principled and ethical stance.”

Four days later, a letter writer to Cook Islands News asks about complaints from two women against the Police Commissioner. In October 2023, PM Brown said “There is a due process that takes place in that complaint, and we will let that due process continue.” Earlier this month, 1News reported that the police commissioner was not available for comment, but his spokesperson said the matter had been in the hands of Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown and had been dealt with. “I have full confidence in the police commissioner, and he’s doing a great job so far,” Brown told 1News.

In just a matter of days, has PM Mark Brown gone from shining integrity declaring “no one is above the law” to suddenly sweeping all conversation of the Police Commissioner under his PM office carpet? It appears our checks and balances are now being compromised.

Other top government officials and public servants in the past have had similar complaints against them. However, it seems all transparency stops when it involves women complainants. Walls go up and decisions are dealt with behind closed doors.

Do we have a worthy moral government with principles and transparency that will make people being paid as a public representative, who wrongly abuse their positions of power, make them accountable by our judicial system?

Do we have a government with ‘honourable’ members of parliament who can with their hand on the Bible say they uphold the laws of man and God. And they act faithfully and loyally with decorum and do not entertain or practice adultery or misuse public funding?

I ask this because last year the independent transparency and corruption report for 2022 on the Cook Islands concluded that people are concerned about the current prevalence of corruption and the need for people to do ‘favours’ to get ahead on the islands.  

Twenty-nine (29) per cent of those surveyed said government corruption was a big problem with 43 per cent saying it had increased. Twenty (20) per cent said they had to pay a bribe, give a gift or do a favour in order to get the needed assistance or services. Of these 8 per cent said over the past five years officials had asked the respondent or someone they knew, for a sexual favour in exchange for government service.

The 2023 report ranks government corruption by members of parliament as number one the highest, followed closely by public servants, police and then notably at number five quite specifically – PM and their officials. These are results from within our own government workers, how then are we perceived by other countries?

While questions of corruption are in the news, this would be a good time for Mark Brown and his government to give the public their personal reassurance that they are not corrupt. To announce publicly they are morally and ethically principled and under the watchful eye of God and our community, declare they are faithful, respectable, law-abiding members of parliament, who serve the public while representing God and they fully deserve to be called ‘honourable’.

I wonder if anyone will.