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‘MPs must be held accountable to the people’

Thursday 4 November 2021 | Written by Te Tuhi Kelly | Published in Opinion


‘MPs must be held accountable to the people’
Te Tuhi Kelly.

I have been having a go at MPs recently and I think it’s fair to say that many people are not happy with what we are having to put up with, writes Te Tuhi Kelly, the leader of the Progressive Party of the Cook Islands.

One of the things that gets up people’s noses and really snots us off is the incompetence of some of our MPs. The utter disregard for process from an undereducated and arrogant at times rabble. The sheer lack of respect for their positions as the political leaders of our country and for us who put them there.

Since 1965 when we gained independence has seen the rise of corrupt practices by our elected officials culminating in the mid-1990s debacle where the country was essentially bankrupt. Now we have a history of court proceedings, loss of knighthood, loss of seat due to fraudulent behaviour, demotions and then to rub salt into the festering wound, the rallying cry from the affected Party and their anau rushing to the defence of their comrade.

We have a history of voting into political and public service positions, criminals, liars, philanderers, and those who were found to be derelict in their duties which goes hand in hand with bribing, treating, and manipulating the feelings and emotions of our people and relying on the forgiveness model. All towards one goal and that is, the need to maintain a greedy disposition for them, their families and their lifestyles whilst lying through their teeth and smiling whilst doing it.

One of the things which I rabbit on about to all whom will listen to me is the need to make politicians accountable for their actions to the people and not every four years or a by-election. In the Public Service there is a code of conduct which binds each and every employee of the public service. Now one would think that MPs are also public servants but, and it is a big but, not one nor any of the other Public Service Commissioners would even take on such a role as to police MPs. Why? Because they are not subject to the Office of the Public Service Commissioner. They are subject to criminal law and the Constitution of our country and to their Party.

I would go so far as to state that they are more beholding to themselves then their Leader and then their Party than they are to the laws of our country going by the issues over the decades since 1965. Do they care about what we think, nah not on your nelly, they don’t give a toss once they have your vote? You know the thing that people don’t seem to learn is this, “Fool me once (Shame on you)/Fool me twice (Shame on me)” and this happens time and time again.

MPs must be held accountable to us the people and if it takes a referendum to force change then so be it. The Party that introduces a code of conduct that is the one you should think about voting for. The main parties will never think of something like this or even come up with an initiative that puts the power for decision making squarely in the hand of those who will be most affected by their shenanigans: that is us. They will make noises to comfort and console and to get you onside and the thing about is, it will never happen.

You may ask what is a code of conduct and how is it applied? The best way to describe it for a layperson is in this manner. Every group of people has a set of rules written or unwritten that they adhere to for the good conduct of that group. The ties that make them unique are bounded on those rules as the way to give sense as to whom they are as well as to modify good social and acceptable behaviour to that group. Examples include tribes, sports teams, clubs, you name any team, or any group and those rules are there. All groups mingle socially or competitively, and we the people are a member of more than one group and hence adhere to same, similar, or variable rules depending on group dynamics.

These rules in a sense are called a code (standards) of conduct (ethics or morals) which you sign up to if you want to be a member of that group. In a democracy there is none, no MP is required to formally sign into this and hence we find ourselves at a crossroads in disciplining those who transgress and break the rules (code of conduct), because it does not exist. If it did exist it would be highly unlikely that those who should be policing it will in fact do so professionally and without bias or prejudice. Even if it is written into their Party Constitution, it is at best a throw away paragraph.

The process for managing a transgression which arises out of an allegation of a breach of the code of conduct i.e., misconduct or serious misconduct will be predicated on an investigation being carried out by an independent body to ensure the integrity of the process is maintained throughout. It will mean invoking Article 14 (7) (b) of the Cook Islands Constitution as has happened recently with the Deputy Prime Minister Robert Tapaitau being arrested and charged with allegedly committing an act of fraud and was suspended by the Queen’s Representative acting on orders from the Prime Minister.

Editor’s note – A new Code of Conduct for Cook Islands Parliamentarians is currently under review by the Privileges Committee.