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Wednesday 14 November 2018

The Public Service Commissioner Russell Thomas has completed his investigation into Mr. Ben Ponia, former Secretary of the Ministry of Marine Resources in September 2018.

The Commissioner found there was no serious misconduct on the part of Ponia, but an error of judgement by failing to follow a Government policy in a particular instance.

The issue which was investigated arose from the meeting of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (“WCPFC”) in Manila in December 2017 over fishing rights of Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) in the high seas.   The tuna fisheries is an economic activity that requires a regional management approach under the mandate of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).  It is Government policy that the Cook Islands support where appropriate, regional positions and demonstrate regional solidarity to enable the region to obtain value from this industry in a sustainable manner.

The investigation arose over a complaint that Mr. Ponia failed to follow an instruction of his Minister to preserve regional solidarity at the meeting.  Mr. Ponia expressed the only dissent to a measure that he perceived would remove some rights in the high seas vested in small island states including the Cook Islands.

“Mr. Ponia’s decision to take a view contrary to that of the Pacific region caused unease among some members. The facts of the complaint were not disputed.   Mr. Ponia accepted he may have erred.”

The Commissioner says that this finding of an error of judgment is a sufficient outcome in itself.

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