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If Parliamentary Assistant Clerk Tupuna Rakanui is correct, former minister Peri Vaevae Pare won’t lose his seat over corruption convictions.
According to Rakanui, the 2004 Electoral Act calls for a constituency to be declared void if the member of parliament is given a one year prison sentence or more.
This contrasts with the earlier 1998 Electoral Act which saw MPs lose their seat if convicted of a crime “punishable” by one year or more. In other words, the MP would not have to actually be sentenced to one year in prison – just found guilty of a crime that carries that kind of punishment. Under the old act, Pare would have lost his seat. Under the new act, Pare gets to keep it.
What this means of course is that after years of promising to introduce codes of conduct and other ethical improvements, members of parliament are passing laws that allow more, not less, corruption.
In doing so, the Cook Islands has taken a big step down the long, slippery slope that has seen other Pacific countries like Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga stagger from crisis to crisis.
This has nothing to do with “ethnic tensions” or other such nonsense dreamed up by politicians to hide one simple fact: all these problems are due to one thing: corruption.
Chief Justice David Williams is not exaggerating when he describes corruption as a “deadly evil.” On the world scale, such a comment may seem a bit over the top.
After all what are a few bits of hard board and a load of cement? Nothing compared with tens of thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars wasted in the so-called War on Terror.
Anyone who complains about nepotism, mismanagement and corruption in the Pacific Islands should take a closer look at the affairs of puppet president George Bush and his obscenely rich behind-the-scenes bosses on the far right of American big money politics.
On the world stage, and in forums like the United Nations, however, big boys like the United States are worth exactly as much as the little boys like Tonga: one vote.
As Pacific Islanders face extinction of their homelands through rising sea levels brought on by corrupt climate change policies, it becomes more and more important that we clean up at home at the same time as attempting to save the world or at least our own part of it.
From the big picture to the small.
Should Peri Vaevae Pare do the right thing and step down? Of course.
Even if he stood again, and was re-elected, and he probably would be, such a series of events would show we are serious as a nation about corruption, about our duties as a democratic nation state – and, potentially, our responsibilities as a global citizen.
Either that, or we're just another third-world, tin-pot, banana republic, living off scraps from an increasingly rotten first-world table.
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