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LETTER: UN Membership bid: NZ behaving ‘like a coloniser’

Tuesday 13 December 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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LETTER: UN Membership bid:  NZ behaving ‘like a coloniser’

Dear Editor, If the Cooks wanted to become a sovereign nation, it needed its own citizenship. Cook Islanders would remain New Zealand citizens but “if they want to change it, they can”. Then Prime Minister Helen Clark said in June 2001. “If they want to exert full independence, New Zealand will not stand in their way.”

This is part two of my three ‘letter to the editor’ series on: “Have we earned our NZ citizenship or not”.

What should also be clear is that the constitutional conventions of the Realm stem from the initial colonial relationship maintained between New Zealand as administrator of Realms countries like the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. The subordination of the Cook Islands in these settings to New Zealand, and especially round the discussion for UN Membership for the Cook Islands uncloaks New Zealand’s colonial position and deeply reflects its maintained colonial attitude towards other Realm countries, despite their statehood, which they recognise at times, and at other times do not. Each Realm countries inherent right to provide advice to the Monarch on their own and not filtered through the Governor General of New Zealand showing separation and that the relationship as realm countries has been dynamic with subsequent amendments to the Letters Patent in 1983, 1987 and 2006.

We see this also with the wording of the Kirk-Henry Letters in 1973, and the joint declaration letters of 2001, where there is a shift in the political dynamics and wording. While the Kirk-Henry Letters outlined the free association relationship largely on New Zealand’s terms, the Declaration reflected a stronger Cook Islands’ position. Seen in the affirmation of the Cook Islands in clause 4, where it is clear that “in the conduct of its foreign affairs, the Cook Islands interacts with international community as a sovereign and independent state”, full legal and executive competence in respect of its own defence and security, and that assistance from New Zealand is not a qualification on the Cook Islands statehood and better reflects a Cook Islands after the Letters Patent of 1983.

This is in stark contrast to the tone and power commanded by New Zealand in the Kirk-Henry Letters in 1973, with the joint declaration in 1998, though more inclusive and in recognition of the Cook Islands statehood since 1965, Clark still made it clear that UN Membership was off the table by making it mutually exclusive to our New Zealand citizenship. A citizenship that New Zealand has enjoyed with belligerence from 1907 till the mid-1940’s, an active labour force since the 1950s, and a firm hand in the design and evolution of our statehood, despite our statehood in 1965 being driven by New Zealand signing the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 in 1960, which was a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly during its fifteenth session, that affirmed independence for countries and peoples still under colonial rule.

The ‘Realm’ as it has been constructed and in its current form creates a hierarchy between, what from the outside has been promoted as states in balance, free, associated and self-determining, where in fact they are better described by Wiliame Gucake (who specialises in Public Law, Indigenous Rights and Pacific Constitutional Law) as predicated on the former colonial relationship. The Cook Islands within the Realm does not actually give New Zealand, any “superior legal powers” but in terms of how the Realm operates, and seen when one of those states, namely the Cook Islands extends itself beyond what New Zealand considers its political, social and international remit, then we see what has been described as the lopsided realm, and where New Zealand has shifted little in its thinking since 1907 and its sub empire building before it became a country in its own right.

Its view of itself as “little Britain” could best be described as a large New Zealand now with dominion still over its Realm countries when it feels like flexing its muscle, should the lesser states, in its own mind, push beyond what it has determined for them to be and to behave. The truth is New Zealand will not find itself in a situation where its Realm country could potentially vote separately and as a nation state at the UN so it will instead stifle and strong arm any attempt to do just that. A coloniser behaves in such a way, where it exerts its control over its colony when it fears it will decide for itself, behaves in a way it self-determines or vote on the largest international stage and body in a way that it sees fit. Because that’s what countries with actual Statehood do, and how they behave when they are able to apply sovereignty over their affairs regardless the decisions of their partners in the Pacific.

Perplexing when one considers New Zealand’s continued narrative of being a part of the Pacific and resetting its Pacific relationships with the latest being the Waka Hourua Vaka Purua – New Zealand – Cook Islands Statement of Partnership - October 2022. A statement where it states and both countries agreed to the principle of Manaakitanga/Te Ko’u Mana: Where we will engage in a mutually respectful way that uplifts one another’s mana, and supports each other’s aspirations; Communicate openly and proactively, and work together to advance areas of mutual interest (domestically, regionally and globally), Maia/Kia Ti’ama – where we agreed we will carefully listen, courageously share and seek to understand each other’s views, including when there are differences except of course if the Cook Islands move towards UN Membership.

Te Iu Manamanatā

(Name and address supplied)