New Zealand investor Sir Ron Brierley leaving a Sydney court in February 2020, charged with possession of child abuse material on his computer. STUFF(File photo)/21020521
Do we have a stomach for horrific crimes committed by someone in leadership, be it civil society, government or the church, asks Thomas Wynne in his weekly column.
Watching in horror as we all did, agasp that this was
happening in our beautiful Ipukarea, we all scoured the video again and again,
looking for clues to identify these three young men, our young men, as they
paraded a baseball bat and bush knife before a terrified cowering shop
assistant. Cigarettes, money and alcohol were clumsily stolen as they ran out
of the store.
The social media feedback was vicious and quick and more
than 300 people commented on this terrible crime. It was shared for others to
read 65 times, contributing to these young men, our young men, being captured
and locked up the following day by the good work of the Cook Islands Police
Based on the social media comments, these three young men,
if handed over to an angry public, would have little left of their bodies, with
cries for their fingers crushed or chopped off, bashed, thrown into a pit,
beaten, or at the very least a demand for public humiliation, to be outed, and
named. And as a fourth young man has been arrested, he too will join those
already named and face the public backlash for this horrific crime.
Because we don’t have a stomach for horrific crimes in the
Cook Islands, especially those of young men, often uneducated, unemployed and
addled by drug and alcohol abuse, not an excuse, just a context.
But do we have a stomach for horrific crimes committed by
someone in leadership, be it civil society, government or the church, because
if they commit horrific crimes, there is no violent reaction on Facebook, or
calls for the perpetrator to be hung by a tree.
In fact, they will be able to continue in their horrific crimes
while we are all silent, and it is this condoned silence that bloodies all our
hands – all of us to the crime these men commit in darkness but known to all of
There will be no public outcry for their parts to be chopped
off, like these three young men will endure, because if you are someone we look
up to or someone who holds office, you can be a sexual predator in our
community, and prey on women without the fear of anyone saying a word to the
police, or to the newspaper, in fact you might even get a promotion.
Sir Ron Brierley may be a name some of us are familiar with,
as Sir Ron was a wealthy tycoon and businessman in the 70’s and 90’s and
received a knighthood from the Queen for his endeavours. Sir Ron, wore a suit
every day and lived a public life most of us couldn’t dream of, boats, planes,
money and prestige and public acclaim, even a knighthood, but Sir Ron had a
A secret that his position, power and money was able to
conceal and cover for many years, that others close to him must have known, but
today he faces 17 charges for having child abuse material as Australian Border
Force officials stopped Brierley from boarding a flight from Sydney to Fiji in
December 2019. Seizing his carry-on bags, laptop and electronic-storage units
and allegedly discovering more than 200,000 images and 512 videos, of children
This kind of abuse is as much about power, and the abuse of
power as it is about sex, and I am sadly reminded of the countless, mainly
young women I saw in the Cook Islands who had suffered similar abuse at the
hands of men, and most we know of their crimes, but instead of outrage there is
instead a choice to be silent.
Because if you steal cigarettes, alcohol and money that’s a
real crime, a crime that we get all very upset about. But if you steal a young
man or woman’s innocence, if you steal their ability to form lasting meaningful
relationships, if you steal her ability to trust, steal his ability to
empathise and care for his future partner, steal their childhood or their teen
years, then it is a crime we will say nothing about. And in fact, if we do say
anything, it will be to blame the victim that somehow, they asked for it.
The crime these four young men committed sickens our
stomachs and is wrong, that is without question, but what should sicken us more
is the silence that continues for crimes far more hideous – who steal things
more valuable than cigarettes or alcohol and too often by those we continue to
hold in high regard.