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Te Tuhi Kelly: 200 years of the arrival of the Gospel to Cook Islands

Tuesday 28 February 2023 | Written by Te Tuhi Kelly | Published in Opinion

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Te Tuhi Kelly: 200 years of the arrival of the Gospel to Cook Islands
Aitutaki Gospel Centenary Celebrations 1921. COUNCIL FOR WORLD MISSION/21102214.

The Cook Islands is due to celebrate 200 years of the arrival of the Gospel to these shores. A momentous occasion to be celebrated by one and all with visitors from around the world coming to the Cook Islands to bask in the glory of the spreading of the word of God, writes Te Tuhi Kelly.

Returning Cook Islanders from those who left to seek a better life overseas, their descendants who were born in those far-flung places, other Christian and non-Christian faiths, non-believers, and thrill seekers will all be visiting to be part of the occasion.

Local (Rarotonga) and Island communities have been preparing for this occasion for many years and all sorts of start-up committees have been formed to raise funds to support their celebration activities in their locales. Many, visiting Cook Islands family overseas, fund raising amongst those overseas Christian communities, organising fetes, barbecues, meetings, raffles, and all sorts of events to enable them to fund raise for their Gospel celebratory wants and needs back home in their respective islands.

It is probably fair to say that millions of dollars will be flowing into bank accounts set up to take advantage of this fiscal largess flowing into the country for the 200 years celebrations. Many of these island and Christian committees have been set up with much energy and excitement and most if not, all are hardworking, God fearing, honest and some naïve and trusting members of these committees.

Why naive? Well folks I’m sad to say that some of those members are the needy, seedy and the greedy opportunists and thieves who have been put into positions of being the treasurer for the safekeeping of those donated funds.

Many of, if not all those committees are voluntary organisations and are not set up to handle the large sums of money being donated. No proper Constitutions, no proper Chair, Secretary, or treasurer no proper meeting agenda or minutes for their constituents. No proper accounting practices followed. It is all based on trust, and we know how that’s gone for years with monies being siphoned off with the siphoner in a position of trust and the funds put into their or other private accounts. Spent on justifiable needs (in their eyes).

They are in charge of such vast (in their minds) amounts of money that they cannot stop the temptation to help themselves and then internalise the theft by thinking I’ll just take a wee bit and pay it back, I’ll just take a wee bit because, really I should be getting paid to be the treasurer, I’ll just take a wee bit because really I need to donate towards a funeral or a birthday or some such belief, and no one will be the wiser. If they ask questions, I can fob them off with a plausible answer until they give up asking after all it’s been done before.

So, if you are on one of these committees and you do not have a proper committee bank account with a minimum three executive members signing the cheques, then you are remiss. The money donated in good faith by hard working Cook Islanders and others is being stolen under your nose and you are just as accountable as the person stealing it for their own selfish ends.

That money must be accounted for using proper accounting practices. That committee was set up to be the voice of the Christian community in which you represent their ears, eyes, and brain to come up with a proper and reasonable way to celebrate the 200 years of the Gospel to our shores.

Our history over the past decades is rife with political figures, public servants, ordinary citizens, those put into positions of fiscal responsibility, helping themselves to the public purse or private funds. They always justify it and guess what? They get forgiven.

One cannot be forgiven for such theft no matter the justification or excuse, it is thievery and fraud because those who donated have been suckered by an act of downright greed and selfishness.

It is bad enough listening to those false prophets sermonising at the pulpit to enjoin their constituents to donate a tithe for their own selfish lifestyles which the people can ill afford. But to steal the money which was donated in good faith is despicable and an affront to human decency.

So, if you read this out there, and you are on a committee set up as described or you are a constituent member of these committees, please ask the hard questions about the set up of your committee and who is holding the purse strings and how many signatories there are, just for peace of mind ok? I don’t want to come back with another article post-Gospel celebrations and say, “I told you so”.

  • Te Tuhi Kelly is the founder and leader of Progressive Party of the Cook Island.