Thursday, December 22, 2011

Swearing the Oath

You have been elected by the people of your electorate and of New Zealand to represent them in Parliament, to facilitate the rule of the Crown. The least you can do is swear an oath to the head of state, Queen Elizabeth II. Of course, there are those that do not appreciate the honor and responsibility that is granted in becoming a member of parliament, and have chosen to take the initiation into parliament less seriously. The Green Party, Mana  Party, and many within the Labour Party want parts of the initiation removed or altered, to remove the Queen as the sovereign and God as their personal deity. While we no longer preach a national faith, nor force the monarch to make all our decisions; to drastically change this solemn initiation compromises the integrity of government.


New Zealand is a multicultural nation, with citizens supposedly equal and respectable regardless of their race or religion. We may not be so much a Christian country, neither is the Church of England pushed as an official national faith; but the affirmation to enter parliament is still valid. All members of the Green Party, and many in the Labour Party chose to use the affirmation instead of the oath. Raymond Huo is Buddhist, and did not use the Christian initiation. For agnostics, atheists, pagans, and other beliefs; the term 'God' would be inappropriate and technically unlawful. In Canada, an additional affirmation was created in 1905 to say,
"I, [name], do solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm and declare the taking of an oath is according to my religious belief unlawful, and I do also solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II"
which is essentially an affirmation with an explanation. While the oath may be rigidly restricted to monotheistic beliefs, the affirmation should be the lawful alternative. The oath needs to be a very personal and sincere declaration of intention, as is the affirmation. The presence of God is a personal choice that an MP can make.


New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy. Whether ideologically good or not, it is near indisputable that the system has produced a degree of stability and security almost unmatched in the world. It is a fallacy to believe that monarchy is impractical when it has worked so well for the entirety of our nationhood. The Queen is an integral part of our government and it would invalidate the government, the Treaty of Waitangi, and the sovereignty of our country. It makes no sense that MP-elects would want to compromise the institution that they have worked so hard to get into. The oath is from a British imperial statute, the Promissory Oaths Act 1868, and has predecessors dating back to the Magna Carta, probably the oldest law in force in New Zealand, the famous document that began our parliamentary system. Politicians refusing to acknowledge the monarch as head of state are refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of their own office. Former Premier of Ontario Mike Harris said in 1993: "The oath to the Queen is fundamental to the administration of the law in this country. It signifies that, here in Canada, justice is done — not in the name of the Prime Minister, or the Mayor, or the Police Chief, as in totalitarian nations — but by the people, in the name of the Queen,"


While discussion about the precise wording and meaning of the oath is totally acceptable, an oath or affirmation is a necessary initiation rite into parliament, and disrespect of these are a sign of disrespect to the institution of parliament. The oath and affirmation need to be a very personal and solemn declaration, and must reflect the beliefs of the person taking the oath, meaning that God should not be a compulsory term as forcing people of other faiths to use the term would be technically incorrect in itself. An affirmation can encompass everyone, as it is irrespective of faith. While monarchy and republicanism can be (and often are) subject to debate, to become a member of parliament below the monarch, one must acknowledge the monarch. 

I was disgusted by Hone Harawira's conduct this year in his stupid game around the oath, it shows the seriousness in which he treats parliament and his role as an elected member. It now seems there is more complaint about the oath, how seriously do the complainants take this government and their commitment to it? Fortunately, Lockwood Smith is faithful to the laws of the land, and only those serious about representing their constituents in parliament will be allowed in.

1 comment:

  1. 'To drastically change this solemn initiation compromises the integrity of government'. Really? Not at all. We all know the Crown is still in charge. In fact, Labour/Greens/Mana etc wouldn't mind keeping the monarch in there. The problem is that the oath is nothing besides pledging to be faithful to the monarch, and that is not why members are in Parliament and it has no relevance to them. Why the hell can't we add common sense statements such as pledging to do their best for New Zealand in there? Its not hard, and members would be pledging to do something that they actually care about. P.S. All that tradition with the wigs etc was laughable. I am generally pro-Queen, but we either need to modernise our ceremonies or become a republic! Our official ceremonies, just like our oath, need to reflect our modern nation and just who the MPs are primarily serving.


Thanks for commenting and joining the discussion! Remember to keep the language classy, and I'm a stickler for grammar :P