HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 585: 12 October 2011

Government maintains silence on commitment to Polynesian Union
On the eve of the Pacific Leaders Forum meeting in Auckland, NZ, the Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi invited the leaders of Polynesian nations (Cook Islands, Niue, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa) to a private meeting at the City Life Hotel to discuss the forming of a Polynesian group.
While the meeting and the matters discussed were reported on 19 September, to this day there has been no statement or press release from any of the Cook Islands representatives who attended the meeting. Total silence has been the state of play. The Herald understands Prime Minister Hon Henry Puna, DPM Hon Tom Marsters and Minister Hon Teina Bishop attended the meeting.
While the Samoan Prime Minister has been most informative, our team for some unknown reason elects to remain tight lipped. As a consequence, the Cook Islands public has no clue as to what statements were made by the Cook Islands team or what commitments if any were made.
Most importantly there is no statement as to our position on the matters raised.
According to the media report that was issued overseas,
1. Leaders decided to instruct their senior officials to recommend wording for a charter and work out likely costs. Since September, the public has had no confirmation that our government officials are even looking at a charter, there has been no indication of likely consultations especially with the Traditional Chiefs and if costs are being looked at, how will this impact on our small budget and resources?
2. Leaders decided to meet again early in November in Apia, Samoa to discuss the new group’s aims and organizational requirements. Again the public is entitled to know what these are. No consultations have taken place to determine if the wider community even favours the concept being proposed.
3. The Samoan PM may be appointed as the first Chairman and a small secretariat set up initially in Apia. There is no indication of the likely costs to set up a secretariat.
4. Polynesian leaders had already suggested the idea of a grouping when it was raised by the Samoan PM at earlier meetings in Fiji and Tonga. This will be the first time Cook Islanders have learnt of this.
5. No decision on whether to include NZ has been made as yet. Given the Cook Islands special relationship with NZ no decision should be made without wider public debate.
What should be of concern to the wider Cook Islands public is that discussions have taken place which seem to indicate the concept of a Polynesian Union is some way down the track and without wider public input let alone debate and inclusion of all traditional leaders.
That there have already been agreements made to certain actions has to also be a concern. This is because no public mandate exits for such a concept. The fact costs will be incurred is an issue that should be opened up for debate by taxpayers.
So far, the benefits of such a Union have not been fully articulated. The Samoan PM referred to working together on issues of mutual interest, preservation of language, culture and traditions and effective delivery programmes that benefited the entire region.
A concern is that political stakeholders may have alternate views. Tahiti is tied to France, the Cook Islands is tied to NZ, Samoa and Tonga have an increasing Chinese interest.
What government also has to be mindful of are the budgetary implications and whether we can afford to put taxpayer monies into what is essentially a new bureaucracy certain to be padded out with high salaried public officials and fund consuming consultants producing endless reports which require even greater levels of funding to implement. -Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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