HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

News in Brief

The Webb Ellis Cup & de-population
I shook hands with the bone-crunching talking All Black Jerome Kaino yesterday at the “Cafée Rock” in Nikao opposite the airport the other day. He was there with his wife and child and what a humble and quietly spoken man. I was there with our resident Samoa Matai “Alava’a” deliberately on matters of the world.
Kaino is here with the Webb Ellis Cup, the biggest trophy in World Rugby won by the All Blacks of New Zealand. Yesterday, Kaino walked and talked with the people of the Cook Islands here on Rarotonga so they may experience the aura of this prestigious trophy.
However when I look at these arrangements to display and promote rugby and the Webb Ellis Cup, I cannot help but feel sad that several hundreds of people has missed out on this “rugby” experience because they have departed our shores. Those are the people that had faced the reality of a struggling economy and a strangulating mortgage and in the end the squeeze ripped the breath out of these people and they left for overseas.
The Webb Ellis Cup show or road tour is a breath of relief that simply makes people feel good but when it is over and reality sets back in we again go through the daily reminders of young people without jobs, of businesses not generating much work and money and of mortgage repayments defaulting and houses being repossessed by the banks. Such occurrences are so common in the Cook Islands that we take it for granted that our lives are really like this – depressing.
Let’s ask the question, what is the Government doing about it? Well, the simple answer is ZILCH!, NOTHING at all. Instead what we read is the Minister of Finance in Manila shaking hands with the Asian Development Bank “Big Boss” – probably arranging a crippling loan to burden us and generations to come. We read the Prime Minister chartering plans to the Outer Islands (three within a short space of time) especially Manihiki. What I understand is that he is so worried about being thrown out by the Manihiki people that he took the Tupapa MP George Maggie to break the ice frozen demeanors of the Manihiki people.
Then we read from one Minister claiming to have done things for one of the Southern Cook Islands when due credit should be given to the Democratic Party Government. We see the road-works and therein lay a huge conflict of interest by the Minister of Infrastructure with his company carrying out the job.
In all honesty, I can’t wait for the elections to arrive and for the people of the Cook Islands to reinstate the Democratic Party Government – e new one I might add, with a new progressive attitude and image. This Government has been in for only a year and a bit and it’s most vocal supporter Papa Teariki Simiona is already crying out foul over the departure tax increase and other indiscretions this Government is showing.
I also know that several of the backbenchers of the Government are embarrassed to be associated with the Cook Islands Party because of a degenerating and regressive modus operandi. Sad isn’t it? It promised so much, it slithered in the glitter of political campaign but yet it has been found out to have LIED TO THE PEOPLE.
For those of you living in Titikaveka – vote for the Democratic Party in the by-election. If you do, you are VOTING FOR OUR REVIVAL. -Wilkie Rasmussen , Leader of the Opposition

Vision and Leadership for the Country’s Public Service
Visionary strategic leadership is one of the most vital skills and abilities being sought as we begin the process of recruiting and appointing people to our top jobs in the public service.
Providing the Government with long term strategic advice, leading and managing innovation to achieve government priorities that contribute to the sustainable development of our country are all top of mind in the selection of Heads of Government Departments for Agriculture, Justice, Education, internal Affairs, Cultural Development, Health, Transport, Infrastructure and Planning, Office of the Public Service Commissioner and the Office of the Prime Minister.
In my capacity as Minister Responsible for the Office of the Public Service Commission I want to usher in an era characterised by a public service standard led by Heads of Departments who are intellectually sharp, and who have a strong grasp of the trends and issues facing their agency and the wider sector, in order to develop long range strategies and plans. They must be able to create a compelling vision and inspire others to support that vision.
Creating strong teams by empowering people, fostering open dialogue and ensuring that individuals work together - are skills we need from our secretaries and chief executives who need to be counted on to step up when times are tough. If conflict arises, looking for common ground and resolving differences equitably and calmly are necessary qualities. They must take the lead on controversial issues and be able to read situations and people accurately whilst being able to see their strengths and limitations.
The future of the Cook Islands demands public servants in leadership positions who are confident to manoeuvre through complex situations effectively and quietly, whilst maintaining standards of political neutrality. Understanding the origin and reasoning behind key policies, practices and procedures and being able to consistently demonstrate energy and drive for better results is a must in the current environment.
We hope applicants have been attracted who are able to adapt their approach to achieve desired results and strive for better performance, balanced with a concern for people and due process. Building relationships of trust and respect with the general public, colleagues, Ministers and staff while exercising their powers are fundamental to the job.
As with all high calibre positions the expectations is that Secretaries and Chief Executives will model the highest standard of personal integrity and drive an internal culture of honesty and professionalism.
The values they bring to the job should reflect being truthful, law abiding; providing impartial advice, acting without fear or favour, and making decisions on their merits; serving the people well through service to the Government of the Cook Islands; treating people and colleagues with courtesy and respect; taking actions and making decisions in an open and transparent way; being accountable and responsible for actions taken, and achieving good results by working efficiently and effectively.
Should we successfully attract people with these talents and competencies to lead the public service, the country and people of the Cook Islands will be well served. -Prime Minister Hon Henry Puna

World Press Freedom Day 2012
Thursday 3 May is World Press Freedom Day. It celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom: To evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. In supporting all local media practitioners and their right to report on current events independently and without interference, you the reader can protect your right to know the truth about the issues that are affecting our country and society today. Following is an edited excerpt of an essay from the official UNESCO website for World Press Freedom Day about the power media freedom has to transform societies:
‘Free media transform societies by enlightening the decision making process with information, empowering individuals to take control of their destinies.
In this context, media freedom plays a crucial role in the transformation of society by reshaping its political, economic and social aspects. That is why media freedom is promoted by UNESCO, as the United Nations’ specialized agency with a mandate to defend and promote freedom of expression and press freedom.
This wave of revolution was triggered by a vegetable peddler in Tunisia who set himself on fire [in protest] after having his vegetable cart confiscated and being publicly humiliated by the authorities. This singular image of a desperate act by an ordinary person, which went viral through mobile technology and social media, heralded an extraordinary beginning for this new decade. Years of censorship, suppression, and restriction came crumbling down with the fall of the former Tunisian authorities. Tunisia demonstrated the transformative power that can be brought forth by the convergence of social media, mobile connections, satellite TV and an earnest desire to fundamentally change socio-economic-political situation. It started a domino effect that went on to reach Tahrir Square in Egypt, the city of Benghazi in Libya, and other parts of the region. The actions of young people have been crucial during the movement, and amongst their tools has been social media.
Similarly, in Egypt, the use of media has also played a revolutionary role in the democratic and political processes. A case in point was the effort of a young Egyptian, Wael Ghonim, who created the Facebook campaign, “We are all Khaled Said”, referring to a 28-year-old Egyptian arrested six months earlier and beaten to death while he was held in detention. This Facebook campaign soon snowballed from thousands to more than a million supporters online. It has been one of the rallying points to denounce the regime’s violence and abuse.
From developed countries mired in economic woes to developing countries aching for change, people and especially young people found a voice where there was none before. New voices – stronger, more powerful and using communication tools – have emerged. In this way, media freedom has amplified and multiplied each individual voice. As media freedom grows, the strength of the new voices grows in tandem, and their calls for social transformation and positive political change become an unstoppable force.’

ADB shows interest in banking review
Just hours after landing in Manila, Minister Mark Brown met with the President of the Asian Development Bank Haruhiko Kuroda on 1 May to discuss a number of issues of mutual interest to both the ADB and the Cook Islands.
The discussion centred around a number of themes:
• consolidating the debt portfolio of the Cook Islands with the ADB;
• focussing the efforts of the ADB on renewable energy and technology; and
• the banking sector and the cost of credit for the private sector.
On consolidating the debt, the Minister emphasised the gains that could be made in administration alone with just one loan, as well as the provision of certainty when moving away from the SDR to the New Zealand dollar.
Officials from the ADB and MFEM will now work towards this purpose.
President Kuroda was happy to see the ADB focussing on these areas, and commented on the particular costly reliance the Cook Islands had in diesel and looked forward to greater cooperation in this area.
The Minister also outlined the scope for improving GDP by expanding the economy from services industry towards information and knowledge. The Minister canvassed opportunities and possibilities for connection to Rarotonga by submarine cable, citing a recent example in Tonga, where in conjunction with the World Bank the ADB were able to assist in bringing down the cost of such infrastructure dramatically.
President Kuroda commented that he was interested in hearing of the upcoming banking review in the Cook Islands.
The Minister pointed out to the President the high cost of credit in the Cook Islands and outlining that the cost of funds did not correlate with the official cash rates in New Zealand and Australia.
The Minister outlined that Government was seeking ways of assisting the private sector by reducing the cost of credit. The Minister directly invited the ADB to look at the Cook Islands as a small place where they could try new lending products before embarking on bigger countries, officials will discuss this further over the next few days.

Commonwealth media delegates discuss leadership
The theme for the 29th Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA) General Conference 2012 held in Brisbane, Australia recently was “Media Leadership in Crisis, Disaster and Emergency.”
The conference was hosted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Shona Pitt Director of Elijah Communications Ltd attended as a representative from the Cook Islands.
Prior to the conference delegates from the Pacific Region held a meeting organized and facilitated by a Pacific Regional Organization, PACMAS to voice their concerns and the problems they faced in times of disaster and emergency.
There was a unanimous agreement for PACMAS to urgently begin work on assisting broadcasters/media in Forum member countries with developing their own disaster management plans in sync with the respective island’s own disaster plans and also to facilitate discussions between media and government to find solutions to the quick release of information by governments and National Disaster Management Organizations.

Government News

Minister pays tribute to Sabati Solomona
The Minister Responsible for the Office of the Public Service Commission, Hon Henry Puna today paid tribute to the life and work of Aitutaki Island Secretary Sabati Solomona who passed away on the weekend after a long illness.
“Sabati had a long and unblemished career in the public service having worked in various positions in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management and extensive roles in the Ministry of Agriculture. He brought stability and certainty to the public service in Aitutaki after serving almost three terms in the role of island secretary,” he said.
Sabati Solomona also worked in the private sector with the Bank of the Cook Islands and other companies based in Aitutaki and held international positions related to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
“Sabati was a humble man with strong religious and family ties and will long be remembered for his generosity of spirit - particularly by those who worked for him.”
“His warm and friendly disposition will be sorely missed by all those who knew Sabati. Our thoughts are with Sabati’s wife, Mii and their four children at this time.”

Hep B Serology Survey
The National Expanded Program for Immunization, the Cook Islands Ministry of Health and World Health Organization will be doing a survey on May 7th onwards about hepatitis B among children to evaluate the impact of national hepatitis B vaccination program on the disease. Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver. It is caused by a virus that attacks the liver. Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent this infection. Hepatitis B vaccine has been recommended for all children in the Cook Islands since 1989, beginning at birth.
We are doing this survey to see if children in the Cook Islands are protected against hepatitis B. This survey will help us evaluate the National Immunization Program and to help the Ministry of Health to improve the program further.
We are asking the parents of all grade 2 students to allow us to test your child’s blood to see if your child has been infected with hepatitis B.
Any information about your child’s vaccination status and the results of testing will be kept strictly confidential. If the test shows that your child has been infected with the hepatitis B virus we will inform you at the end of the survey. We will not share the results of your child’s blood test with anyone else.
It will take about 5 minutes to obtain the small amount of blood from your child’s finger. Please note that the results of blood testing will be kept strictly confidential and will only be shared with the child’s parents/caregiver.
The benefit of knowing if your child has hepatitis B infection mainly has to do with your child’s health in the future. Many people with chronic hepatitis B remain well and may not have any symptoms of being sick. However, some may develop serious liver problems later in life and being aware of symptoms and monitoring health can benefit your child in the future.
In addition, since hepatitis B can be passed to household members, these members can also be screened, and if they are not already protected – they can be vaccinated to protect them from infection.
Your decision for your child to participate is entirely voluntary. There is no penalty for declining to participate, and you can decline without having to provide a reason.
If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Public Health, Tupapa 682 29110 Ext 728 between the hours of 9am and 3pm Monday through Friday. Thank you very much.

High Commisioner of India visits The Cook Islands
His Excellency Mr. Vinod Kumar, the High Commissioner-designate of India to the Cook Islands will visit from 1 to 5 May 2012 to present his credentials to the Queen’s Representative, His Excellency Sir Frederick Goodwin at Government House on 2 May 2012.
The High Commissioner has been in the Indian Foreign Service since 1983 and has been posted abroad to Moscow, Bangkok and Canberra. The High Commissioner is based at the Indian High Commission in Suva, Fiji.
While in Rarotonga, the High Commissioner will pay courtesy calls on the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Immigration and senior members of Government.
India has had an active and very much appreciated programme in the Cook Islands. These programmes include contributions to an ICT upgrade for St Joseph Primary School, outboard motors for the Avatiu-Ruatonga Fishing Club, and concrete benches in Murienua.
The Cook Islands also receives assistance through training opportunities under the Indian Technical Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program. The Cook Islands is being offered 5 training slots to utilise under ITEC in 2012/2013.
The assistance from India has been greatly welcomed by the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands established diplomatic relations with India in 1998 and since then we have enjoyed a warm relationship with India.

TOA provided with temporary Dangerous Goods License with conditions
The Ministry of Internal Affairs has today approved Toa’s application for a temporary licence to store dangerous goods for three months at a new site in Nikao with conditions.
In its inspection of the site and review of the proposed plans, the Ministry concluded that Toa meets the public safety requirements to temporarily store petrol and diesel tanks at the new site.
However, while public safety standards are met Secretary of Internal Affairs Bredina Drollet stated that the ministry has placed two special conditions on the licence relating to environmental approvals and lease arrangements with the landholders.
“While we are satisfied that public safety is not compromised, the provision of a dangerous goods licence is not approval to develop the land within the context of the Environment Act 2003. This has been made clear to Toa and the National Environment Service is currently in the process of closely reviewing Toa’s actions with regard to that legislation.”
The second condition that the ministry has included on the licence is that Toa ensures that it has a valid land lease with the landowners approved by the Lease Approvals Tribunal within the High Court.
“One other issue of that we reviewed carefully was the proximity of the temporary site to the foreshore arising from a concern of coastal erosion raised in the 2010 dangerous goods report by inspector Kim Comben from the New Zealand Department of Labour”.
The ministry concluded that location of the temporary site on the foreshore in the short term was not a major issue for Toa’s application for a temporary licence for storage. Toa does intend to develop the land adjacent to the temporary site for a permanent site and the issue of foreshore erosion will need to be assessed again within that context.
The ministry has not received an application for a permanent licence to store dangerous goods from Toa beyond the three months license. The provisional license will expire on 31 July 2012.

Bid to get items on international agenda
The Minister for Renewable Energy and Environment, Hon Henry Puna will make a bid to ensure the Cook Islands renewable energy and sustainable development priorities are placed on the UN and international agenda next week.
He will do this when he attends the High Level Conference for Small Island Developing States for Achieving Sustainable Energy for All (SEFA) and the Rio +20 SIDS Informal Ministerial Meeting to be held in Bridgetown, Barbados from 7-9 May 2012.
Invited by the United Nations Development Program and the Government of Barbados to attend both meetings, Prime Minister Puna said that at the SEFA Conference, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) including the Cook Islands will put forward a Declaration on SEFA to gain support for their unique circumstances, vulnerabilities and needs whilst articulating support and commitments for the SEFA objectives.
“The Informal Ministerial Meeting on 9 May will provide a platform for Small Island States to dialogue with key partners in the Rio +20 process, to highlight sustainable development challenges and priorities and key messages for Rio +20 in the run up to the Rio +20 Conference to be held in June this year.”
“Both the SEFA Conference and the Informal Ministerial Meeting afford the Cook Islands an opportunity to ensure its positions on renewable energy and sustainable development are reflected in the stance that will be taken by Small Island Developing States at the Rio +20 Conference.”
“Since, the Cook Islands is not a member state of the United Nations, this is one avenue of getting our agenda in the international and UN arena.”
The Rio +20 Conference is expected to be the largest event in the history of the United Nations, with the highest possible level, participation, including Heads of State and Government or other representatives. The themes of the Rio +20 Conference are: how to build a green economy to achieve sustainable development and lift people out of poverty, including support for developing countries that will allow them to find a green path for development; and how to improve international coordination for sustainable development.
The Prime Minister will be accompanied by the Director of Renewable Energy Development Division Tangi Tereapii and Chief Policy Advisor Elizabeth Wright-Koteka. They will leave Rarotonga on Thursday 3 May 2012 and will return on Friday 11 May 2012.
The UN Development Programme will cover the costs for those attending the meetings in Barbados.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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