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AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (August 21, 2001 - Cook Islands News)---Politicians and government organizations hold the key to rescuing Cook Islands culture, says cultural expert Dr. Jon Jonassen.

Dr. Jonassen, who is a professor of political science at Brigham Young University in Hawai‘i,’ says primary responsibility for the preservation and promotion of culture lies with the Ministry of Cultural Development, the Education Department, the Environment Service and the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation.

Last Saturday, in a hard-hitting commentary on the importance of the people and the Cook Islands culture to the country’s economy, Dr. Jonassen claimed places like Hawai‘i were making lots of money by marketing elements of Cook Islands culture, including drumbeats, dances and songs.

As well as calling for enforceable copyright laws which would ensure that artists got their royalties, Dr. Jonassen said it was also time to clean up Rarotonga’s historical assets such as its ‘maraes,’ which were largely overgrown.

He also suggested paying leading Cook Islands artists to create representations of ancient Maori heroes and animals that were traditionally important to the Maori people, which could be mounted in prominent positions around the island.

The Cook Islands would benefit from the increased number of tourists who would visit because of the country’s enhanced reputation as a cultural and artistic center.

Dr. Jonassen says improved copyright laws could be policed by the Crown Law Office and the Ministry of Cultural Development. The Justice Department could also play a role in establishing a copyright registry, which would protect even the unique Cook Island drumbeats that some other Pacific countries were "stealing" and making a lot of money from.

Describing the copyright enforcement agency proposed by New Zealand record producer Terence O’Neil Joyce as "inadequate and possibly counterproductive," he says the Cook Islands government would be better off inviting Tahiti to help establish a similar operation to their successful SPACEM operation here.

Heavy fines would ultimately deter people from breaking Cook Islands copyright laws, he says.

Though he says it’s urgent that something be done about protecting and promoting the physical aspects of Cook Islands culture and introducing enforceable copyright laws, Dr. Jonassen says he has been raising these issues with various Cook Islands governments since the 1980s.

"Those in power seem to have other priorities," he says.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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