Monday 15 September 2014 | Published in Letters to the Editor
Dear Editor,Tim Arnold's assumption (13.09.14) that we all knew the theme of the conference he attended recently in Queenstown was the role of advocates as the protectors of the rule of law had me wondering where I had missed that announcement. Never mind, I found his report while fascinating and revealing also potentially an indictment of his professional colleagues who are demonstrably reticent when it comes to speaking out to defend or support the high ideals he was reporting when faced by executive or legislature action which threaten them.He reports speakers' examples of appalling breaches of the rule of law in distant places like Zimbabwe but also closer neighbouring Fiji and those of us familiar with the developments in either of these countries would not be surprised.What he was alerting us to for those who missed it is this: when governments or Parliament abuse the rule of law and those in the most knowledgeable and best position to expose and challenge such activities remain silent, or compromised, they are further empowering those institutions to continue that abuse, to undermine the principles of democracy to which we subscribe and erode the very foundations of our society.And who are those people? They are the Barristers and Solicitors working within our community and while I don't have an accurate number of the actual practitioners out there I believe they number something over fifty.These people are engaged with our laws on a daily basis. Some, but definitely not all, understand the workings of the Constitution and Parliament but abuse is not limited to those. It can and does occur at all levels. Certainly some are constrained by their employment but there are many who unconstrained have much to say in private but little or nothing to say publicly. True, where their clients' interests are challenged they resort to the Courts but where society's interests are challenged, and no prospect of a fee, they are dangerously, and selfishly, quiet.If the legal fraternity will not speak out against abuse who will? Individuals who do seldom receive support from that quarter. Only one newspaper ventures into any serious investigative journalism. So when Parliamentary opposition is weak who are the guardians of the rule of law? This is the insidious erosion Tim speaks of and as a frequent contributor on contentious matter I feel entitled to make these observations and agree that we in the Cook Islands expect more from the Bench and the Bar.On the question of the MMR secret deal making two further thoughts occurred to me. If a Member of Parliament gave notice of a question in the House asking for the very information Mr Ponia is withholding is he going to be refused an answer or if answered and reported would the question of privilege not trump litigious consequences? Further, how would MFEM treat the rogue Flag State settlement if it were monetary? Would it attempt to disguise or hide it in the Estimates and accompanying Appropriation Bill and could it even contemplate such action with impunity? John M ScottMuri
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