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16 January 2021


Letter: ‘Set the record straight’

Monday 16 November 2020 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


The transparent and accountable process which the late prime minister and minister of Police Jim Marurai insisted be used to select a new Police Commissioner should set an example for the government, writes Opposition MP William Heather.

The procedure that was used was rigorous and thorough – to ensure that the best possible candidate was selected to be Cook Islands Police Commissioner.

I want to clear the name of the former prime minister Jim Marurai. I also want to make it clear that our government made sure that we did the right thing when the job of Police Commissioner came up.

There was nothing underhand, it was all above board and that was what PM Jim insisted on. Anybody who says any different, like the recent letter writer to Cook Islands News who made some nasty accusations, doesn’t have a clue what went on and the principles that Papa Jim stood by. Trevor Pitt, then executive adviser to PM Marurai who was the point of contact for the whole process has also confirmed this.

According to Pitt: “From the outset, PM Jim Marurai, who was also minister of Police, took the position that the post of Commissioner of Police would be a fully meritorious appointment.  A further intent by PM Marurai was to ensure the eventual appointment would be independent and free from political interference.”

A comprehensive review of policing in the Cook Islands was conducted in 2006 by retired NZ Police Commissioner Rob Robinson, who was lead consultant. It included a robust recruitment process for the post of police commissioner.

Pitt said: “The bar was set very high to find the best possible person. He added that the entire review process had the complete support of the PM at the time. It was largely driven by the state to which the Police department had deteriorated - administratively, operationally, and a depressed morale.  The confidence of the community had eroded and the then government recognised the urgency of a major rehabilitation programme.  This was achieved with the help of a range of professional locals.” 

Pitt recalls that the recruitment process itself narrowed down to the selection of one person from the final two best candidates from a field of applicants. “Those two individuals were Pat Tasker and Maara Tetava.  Tasker emerged ahead in the final analysis   However, at the time, Tetava was encouraged to hold firm to his high level of performance so that he could be considered again should the post be up for consideration.  Marurai agreed to a two-year contract for Tasker to fulfil the role and lead the Police Service through its recommended changes. Tasker was appointed in 2007. By the conclusion of the Tasker term, it had become clear to the PM that the Commissioner’s post could be fulfilled by a highly qualified Cook Islander.  Maara Tetava was that person, and was recommended to be duly appointed under Warrant by the Queen’s Representative.”