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A Question of Procedure

Mrs O’love Jacobsen

Leader of the unofficial opposition O’love Jacobsen has left the island on a private visit to the Cook Islands. Mrs Jacobsen’s daughter Ola has chosen Raro for her nuptials. Before she left though she had lost little time in making her presence felt at the Fale Fono. She is raising questions on the appointment of Member Assisting the Minister commonly referred to as Associate Ministers and on the procedure for swearing in the newly elected members of the Assembly.

The established practice was for the old Speaker, in consultation with the old Premier, to summon all newly elected members, following the elections, for a special sitting to elect both the Speaker and the Premier.  It is the Clerk of the Assembly, who then conducts the swearing in of members, following which, there is the election of the Speaker.  That procedure has now changed so that it is the old Speaker who swears in the members then vacates the Chambers while the Clerk conducts the election of the new Speaker.

It seems that the new procedure was introduced in the previous Assembly when the late Ahohiva Levi was the Speaker.  The manner in which Mr Levi was dismissed from the post continues to rankle with some members of his family.

The old procedure had provided some dignity in the event that the old Speaker is voted out. In short he is spared the exposure, the unnecessary public parade, before being dumped.

On that occasion, following the elections in 2014 Mr Levi, resplendent in his best formal wear, in a packed Chamber of the newly elected and of the island’s dignitaries, conducted the swearing in of all members. And when he was done, he exited the Chambers to allow the then Clerk of the Assembly Mrs Moka Tano Puleosi to conduct the election for a new Speaker. Unbeknown to him, he was never to return to the debating chambers of the Niue Assembly as the Speaker.

Unbelievable as it may sound, he received no prior notice that he had lost the backing of the Talagi camp or that moves were afoot to elect Togiavalu Pihigia as his replacement. When the Clerk made the announcement that the Assembly had elected a new Speaker the disappointment was plain to see.

At Ahohiva Levi’s funeral service, the Premier made an attempt to explain why he was removed, but succeeded only in adding fuel to the fire,

Hon Young Vivian has often said that Westminster system of democracy, which can sometimes lead to an open contest between two people, does not fit well with our traditional system of arriving at a decision.  A lot of people will agree with him.


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