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23 January 2021

“Democracy is a fragile commodity”

Saturday 9 January 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


Letter writer John Scott says we can take some lessons from recent events in the USA.

Dear Editor,

While Google tells us that these famous words are often mis-attributed – The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing – it is of no great consequence in the bigger scheme of things for it is the message not the author which is important.

On January 6, 2021 when the US Congress was engaged in the quaint process of confirming what the General Election, and the rejection of numerous pathetic Trump inspired futile Court challenges had already determined, cry baby, poor loser Donald Trump whipped up the emotions of the mindless brigade that believes his lies and marched on Congress to do what exactly reverse the ultimately overwhelming 306 Biden to 232 Trump electoral college votes by unlawful means?

The ‘evil’ inherent in this scenario is that, with a few exceptions, some quite notable Republicans, had been too busy putting their own self-interests, and careers ahead of the Constitution and those of their constituents and, through their inaction, ultimately lent strength and fuel to Trump’s seditious agenda for which I hope the US impeachment or, criminal system, brings him to justice.

It is noteworthy that only when the Trump incited terrorists invaded the legislative Chamber and legislators were cowering beneath their desks that those same Republicans, previously reluctant to challenge their boss, finally decided enough was enough.

Comforted and safe in the realisation that Trump was no longer the person who was the eventual arbiter of their political futures they then did what they should have done much earlier and denounced the ambitions of this unhinged and deluded person.

We here in the Cook Islands are privileged to be living under a Constitution which is founded on democratic principles but democracy is a fragile commodity and should not be taken for granted.

Political stability and freedoms depend upon adherence to the rule of law and as the United States has so vividly illustrated to a global audience, that stability, and those freedoms, are only as secure as loyalty to them. 

The message for us here is that sitting on the fence until it is about to topple under the weight of self- preservation, and self-interest, is a potentially very risky posture to adopt.

Make no mistake, the US came very close to that tipping point last Wednesday and it has far more institutional protections than we do. It demonstrated even then the anarchy which can result from disobedience to the constitutional fabric of a society and placing one’s own interest above the law.

We need to heed the warning signals lest we too become too complacent. The political leaders of Fiji and more recently Samoa have already indicated a worrying degree of domestic unilateralism and reshaping society to suit their own political purposes.

Pacific peoples seem to have this latent attachment to the past feudal hierarchical system and acceptance and acknowledgement of strong leadership which brooks no challenge.

It is this tendency on the part of those in authority who have more sympathy and connection to their historical and cultural bias than Westminster type democracy, and are endeavouring to morph the two, that we have to be watchful of.

John M Scott