Cook Islands Herald 24 February 2016
What happens when politicians fail to live up to public expectations?
By Norman George
Politics is a game for gentlemen and ladies. Gentlemanly is defined as genteel, courteous, honourable, polite and cultivated. All laws are authored around those expected to act like gentlemen. This is of critical importance when it is aimed at the use of discretionary powers in the constitution and other laws. The best example of such a law is the availability of the discretionary powers in article 14(7)(b) of the constitution to suspend a Minister under investigation. Such discretionary power is available to both the P.M. and the Q.R. In highly respected democracies such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, suspension will happen automatically.
It is expected and always to be expected of the Prime Ministers of those countries to act appropriately. The same expectation is held out in relation to the Q.R. When a Prime Minister loses his majority support in Parliament, he should not accept advice from that majority-less PM. The first thing a defeated P.M. will do is to rush to the Q.R. to advise him to dissolve Parliament. If the Q.R. accepts the advice and proceeds to dissolve Parliament, he is guilty of gross misconduct! The normal procedure by convention is for the Q.R. to call on the Leader of the Opposition and give him an opportunity to form a new alternative government. Only when the Opposition fails to put together a majority government that the Q.R. dissolves Parliament and allows a caretaker government to govern during the period of the general elections.
We went through this unfortunate experience once in our tainted political history under a Democratic Party government and Q.R. I state this fearlessly as the records will show that those who abuse office will carry the stain forever. Those currently serving and abusing the Constitution will carry the same stains on their record and reputation during and after their life time. What can the ordinary man in the taro patch do if people in high office fail to carry out their duties? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Some of those in such a position may consider it smart political move! This is delusional. The Court of Public Opinion considers it shameful, unforgiveable misconduct. This is no more than a cheap shot low blow ! Once upon a time, we were the postcard picture of political purity in the pacific. Not anymore...fifty years later we end up in a catatonic state of political failure, exhaustion, stagnation and akaparau arrogance beyond belief !
The greatest qualities expected of politicians are their trust worthiness, believability (credibility) good faith, reliability and integrity. If politicians live up to these ideals, the public will be beholden to them forever.
Compare this good faith and trust the people of Aitutaki placed in PM PUNA when he promised them an unconditional referendum to decide once and for all, the Sunday flight issue. What happens when the majority of the people voted “no?” Out comes PM PUNA’S new “non binding” clause. When that did not work, another one comes along. It is against the Constitution to ban the Sunday flights. Is it not like saying it is against the Constitution to disqualify drunken drivers? I say with absolute certainty it is not against the Constitution to stop the Sunday flights and further it is against the Constitution to disregard a referendum result conducted in good faith by the people of Aitutaki.
This is where the qualities mentioned above come into play, you readers be the judge. Is it a Cook Islanders character to behave recklessly when they get to the top?
There is a lack of basic discipline of those in the Cabinet today. There is no concern for historic consequences. A good example is about a man who became Prime Minster by various strokes of good fortune and coup de tat.. for a period of 7 years. Study the history of his performances and achievements. The chances are you will not find it. The same person sits in Parliament today and plays no role or contributes in any way. He attends Parliament, makes no speeches, eats his lunch, draws his salary then goes home day after day. Yet there are people out there with explosive talent who could make a difference, kept out of Parliament.
There is a saying the pessimist sees gloom in every opportunity, an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. Electors should be informed of the value of their votes. Maybe workshops should be held in every electorate a year before the elections to advise electors what to look for when exercising their electoral franchise. This should be run by neutral presenters assisted by the Electoral Office. I have some descriptions of the variety of MPs we have in Parliament, there are the “gift givers” whose only known role is to present donated gifts from the Chinese or the Government, the pied pipers forever soliciting followers, the permanent greeters dishing out thousands of “Kia Oranas” then sitting down, the sleeper who just sits there saying nothing and occasionally slipping into a snooze, those who provide the “aye” for government and “no” for the opposition with no other contribution, the failed missionary who makes up by a sermon fit for a priest from the chambers of Parliament and the regular comfort giver for whatever bereavements occur in the community. Some even waste question time to make their lengthy greetings Next week: opportunity for the emergence of a new party and protecting our NZ citizenship. Ka Kite.