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LETTERS: ‘Good governance and justice’

Wednesday 20 July 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion


LETTERS: ‘Good governance and justice’

Dear Editor, English historian Lord Sir John Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton about how historians should judge the abuse of power by past rulers, is best remembered for the remark, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Sadly, we have occurrences in our political history that reflects on these unfavourable situations.

Prior to 2011, the Audit Office would issue on average, about 25 special reviews and investigation reports to Parliament per annum. These would range from instances of abuse, misuse, theft and misappropriation of public resources. From 2011 to date, these have dramatically dropped to less than a third of the special reviews and investigations undertaken.  

The Government’s latest attempt, a month out from the general election, in trying to promote a strong policy on anti-corruption is what I would call, a last-minute promo to entice voters. The government has had 12 years to introduce robust legislation and policies in this area.

A week ago, I signed an affidavit through lawyer, Norman George, requesting the High Court for a review into the suspension and reinstatement of the Deputy Prime Minister Hon Robert Tapaitau. On 29 September 2021, we applauded the action of Prime Minister Mark Brown in suspending his Deputy Prime Minister Robert Tapaitau from his position and removed all his portfolios from him, when Tapaitau appeared in Court charged with five offences of dishonesty. Approximately seven months later, on the 16th of May 2022, on the advice of Prime Minister Brown, the Queen’s Representative sat aside the suspension and reinstated Mr. Tapaitau back to his position of Deputy Prime Minister, returning most of his portfolios except those he was charged under. While in our view, Tapaitau was properly suspended under article 14 (7) (b) of the Constitution, we are at a loss as to how the Prime Minister can give this advice to the Queen’s Representative when there is no provision in the Constitution to override article 14 (7) (b).

Our organisation, CAC or Citizens Against Corruption, which acts exclusively in the public interest, are concerned about the devastating effect of this decision and action by both the PM and the QR. Our reputation in the Pacific region will suffer, our relationship with New Zealand will be hurt; a condition of our free association with New Zealand is that we share a common interest and value with the people of NZ, lifting a suspension order before a trial will never be acceptable in NZ and the Commonwealth.

We therefore treat this event with grave concern and seek the Court’s intervention, preferably with the Court of Appeal to do a judicial review of what occurred to establish whether the action was valid, within the law or invalid contrary to law. Should the Court find the action invalid and contrary to law then we would like to see Mr. Tapaitau placed under suspension again within the authority of the Court.

I lodged two complaints with the Police Department in 2021. Both complaints relate to Ministers of the Crown. I followed these up in February 2022 with the Police Commissioner. It was clear that these complaints would not be reviewed on a timely basis. The reasons, as stated by the Police Commissioner was that they, the Police, simply do not have the appropriate human resources and at the time, and it was not a priority. Leaving serious crime complaints for long periods of time is not conducive to good governance and justice in our country.

Paul Allsworth

CAC chair

Cook Islands United Party candidate

Former director of Audit

Editor’s note: In May this year, Prime Minister Mark Brown said: “In light of Tapaitau’s court hearing not expected until next year 2023 … and after discussing this matter with Cabinet colleagues, I have decided that we cannot leave someone suspended indefinitely, he needs to get back to work. Given the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and knowing that Tapaitau will be defending his charges very vigorously in court, it is totally unreasonable to have him in sit in a state of limbo, when I can put him back to work.”