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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 8. 1965.

Henry: "Sauve, Elusive Politician"

page 11

Henry: "Sauve, Elusive Politician"

No more the Albert Henry, vociferous critic of N.Z. Administration in the Cook Islands. In his place we have a suave, elusive politician, Messianic "saviour" of his people, diplomatic negotiator with NZ, and invincible leader of the Cook Islands Party (CIP).

In the first of two interviews with Mr Henry. I set out to establish the political climate of the Cook Islands, its future relationship with NZ, and to And out how Henry as Premier will grapple with the problems facing the Cooks.

Out of four choices, the Cook Islands Legislative Assembly decided unanimously in 1962 to opt for self-government. NZ sent constitutional advisors to the Cooks who prepared a draft constitution with the co-operation of the Legislative Assembly. This constitution was put to the people in April. They could accept or reject it by electing a government which based it policy on the future status of the Cooks.

What led to Albert Henry's return to the Cook Islands'! "It was in October, 1963, that I received a tape-recording," he said. In it all leaders and chiefs spoke a few words asking him to return. "What they wanted was to get together and do something for the country." Several industries endorsed these sentiments.

Contrary to the common occurrence of emergent one-party states, four parties contested in the Cook Islands elections. Explaining how they arose, Mr. Henry enumerated the United Party "formed by Dick Brown and his past Assembly."

The Labour Party, whose policy was [unclear: al] self-government, William Estell (former deputy leader of the Legislative Assembly) thought he could beat Dick Brown, so he decided to form an Independent Group of scholars.

'It did not matter how young they were, back from school or not, as long as they received a scholarship," said Albert Henry somewhat laconically.

And then, of course, there was his own Party, the CIP, formed soon after Henry's return. A wellorganised, vigorous group, active throughout all the islands, winning 14 out of the 22 seats in the election. "We studied the draft Constitution and decided self-government was the best policy," he said.

I asked Mr. Henry how long he expected his own Party to remain consolidated. "I think it is here to stay," he said. "NZ la very happy that a distinct majority has been a party. Formerly Legislative Assembly members were elected without a policy of their own and therefore could only work accord[unclear: in] to proposals presented to them."

Did Albert Henry think the Opposition under William Estell would emerge as a party in its own right?

"They will break up again," he stated forcibly. A few had already come over to the CIP. At present, he said, the Opposition have no reason to oppose anything "except Albert Henry and the Party."

It was noticeable that Mr. Henry's conception of the role of an opposition was a characteristically Polynesian one. An Assembly comes to a decision through discussion. Each side may compromise, but all will be satisfied with the ultimate choice without the formality of a vote.

"Our purpose as the Government is to present a policy to cover all needs. If they oppose that, then they have got to give us something better."

An opposition is not there, he said, just to oppose the Government's plan. "That is obstruction. Just as they are behaving at the present time."

An example was the issue of selfgovernment. In their platform policies all parties favoured selfgovernment, although the Independent Group wished Integration with NZ to be looked into. Now certain members of the Opposition who were in the former Assembly are asking if the people really know what self-government entails.

"Well, what have they been doing?" asked Henry. "It was their duty to make sure the people knew all about self-government as well as the other choices, while they were getting their ministerial salaries."

If all the parties supported selfgovernment in substance, what was the main issue of the elections? Referring to his own Party, Albert Henry cited the famous residential clause. "I went to the people with the issue of the residential qualification," he said.

They were told quite clearly that the CIP would only consider the Constitution if candidates could be eligible after one year's residence, instead of the three years. This was the clause which excluded Henry from participating as a candidate.

Sir Leon Gotz promised the Cook Islanders a referendum on their future status when he first offered the Legislative Assembly a multiple-choice. This was never held and I asked Albert Henry if he considered a referendum would have clarified the election.

He agreed it would have indeed, and spoke of several groups who fought for it. "I stated before the Select Committee that I approved of a referendum. But it must be done before the elections. Not now," he added shrewdly.

Alaert Henry was asked how much he thought he could talk of political independence when relying on the NZ financial subsidy to such a degree. "We know," he said disarmingly, "that we cannot be as good a country as NZ."

He explained that the constitution was not for full independence but self-government, although the Cook Islands was quite free to break away completely from NZ if the people so desired.

How much freedom did he envisage in making internal policies? Apparently the answer lay in consultations with the NZ authorities "Previously NZ made the proposals and we accepted them. If we didn't like them, we still got them. Now we do not have to accept NZ plans and we can also submit our own, and in this way come to some agreement."

Henry expanded his theme with an illustration. "It's tike this. We want a car, say a Ford car. The NZ Government says 'no, a Ford car costs too much, but a Holden is _300 less!' After discussion we say 'alright we will have a Holden.'"

He emphasised that the Cook Islands now has a real power to negotiate on financial matters, choosing NZ personnel for the public service administration, and on plans for economic development. No longer do they have to submit to all policy issuing from the Island Territories Department in Wellington.

What was Mr. Henry's attitude to the outflow of Cook Islanders to NZ. Here he was most emphatic if a little vague. "It is essential if we are to remain a country of sorts that we must have people. I believe that Rarotonga can carry 20,000 people," he said. The present population is about 13,000.

"But before we can say 'you come back,' we must try to provide something for them. At present there is a trend of homesickness and a going-back-home spirit that in Auckland is very strong. Cook Islanders are migrating for financial reasons," he said.

Albert Henry was supremely confident that the Cook Islands could progress under self-government. He appeared to be well informed of the difficulties, but did not elucidate any specific remedies. Undoubtedly a leader of considerable strength with a forceful personality, it is to be hoped that Albert Henry will set the Cook Islands off on a promising start. There is certainly no effective substitute at present available who can rally the people around him as Henry can.