HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

News Briefs

Our contribution to Pacific Regionalism
A programme of special events has been arranged to take place in Suva next week, and I have the honour of participating in this occasion in my continuing role as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum. I shall be in Fiji primarily as this year’s speaker in the Annual Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Lecture, which will be staged at the Forum Secretariat Headquarters in Suva, on Thursday 18 October.
This important speaking engagement is a public event, designed to focus on the Pacific Plan and help promote the Region’s efforts in progressing its development agenda. It’s an opportunity for the Cook Islands to demonstrate its support and contributions to Pacific Regionalism, and our framework of cooperation to meet the ongoing challenges and needs in our part of the world. It’s an honour to represent the country and to offer some insight into the future of the Pacific.
This support at the regional level is part of the celebratory activities associated with our long history as a Forum – an organisation in which the Cook Islands has been an active and constructive member since being among the founding nations, in 1971.
This series of public lectures is part of the celebratory approach to promoting the region’s work and achievements under the Pacific Plan. The Plan of course, remains the region’s blueprint for strengthening regional cooperation and integration, as mandated by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 2005.
In recent years, Leaders have been invited to share their vision of how the Forum is performing and looking ahead to future improvement and enhancement of various programmes. Previous Leaders have involved Vanuatu, Samoa, and New Zealand.
Those Leaders have provided positive comment on the role and place of the Pacific Plan in delivering on their aspirations and on the development of the region over the last 40 years. Discussion has revolved around some of the challenges the Pacific Islands Forum has faced and has referred to the Pacific Plan’s role as a driver for regionalism, recognising the collective strength of the region to meet past, present and future challenges. My aim is to continue this worthy tradition and add our voice to this important regional discussion.
The context of the Leaders’ Lecture Series has the added dimension of future change in the form of a major review. The preparations are underway for this review in 2013, having been endorsed by Leaders this year at the Aitutaki Retreat. Eminent Person, Sir Mekere Morauta of Papua New Guinea, is to lead the Review, which is expected to lead to an updated Pacific Plan to be presented to Forum Leaders in the Marshall Islands, next year.
This assignment in Fiji will augmented by a visit to the USP main campus at Laucala Bay, and I’m pleased that I will have this opportunity to address all the Pacific students, as well as the Cook Islands students who are studying in Suva. I hope to bring news of their progress there and share some experiences with them on role I am playing on behalf of the country.-Prime Minister, Henry Puna

Weeding out Demo supporters
I recently stated that the Prime Minister either directly or indirectly has threatened and intimidated several senior public servants for “not towing the Government line”. The PM casually dismissed that as nonsense. Well, as the Head of Government, shaking it off lightly may be his undoing. You see, everything the Government does is ultimately his responsibility. As former Prime Minister Dr Joe Williams said to us Democratic Party caucus members some years ago; “the buck stops with me”. This is when we met with him at the PM’s Office at Te Atukura to tell him to resign because of massive public condemnation of him and his Government. Several days later, he was voted out of office in Parliament.
My point here is that like Dr Joe, PM Henry’s denials could depose him. Instead of checking (well it appears he hasn’t because his response was quick and a denial of knowledge) as to whether my claims had substance, he brushed them off. In other words he does not want to know or he knows and he is engaging in a public relations damage control exercise. What fate awaits the proverbial King with no clothes in the glass-house?
Here are some facts and preconditions. Every political party, when not in Government has the purpose in mind to provide jobs for their supporters. I was a Cook Islands Party Member of Parliament for several years and time and time again, the CIP Leader at the time, Sir Geoffrey Henry gets blasted by supporters and committees for failing to provide “jobs for the boys and girls”. The same telling off was vented against the Demo leaders and Ministers. So this will be a precondition for someone like PM Henry who has a very good understanding of the machinery and the ins and outs of Government. If anything this is one thing he will want to deliver to party faithful simply because many of them are disappointed in his and his Minister’s performance.
Secondly, the PM is a specialist at this kind of thing. He is no fool but he will not blink an eye if something is to benefit him even though a person will be hurt by the intervention. He did that to one of his “marital relatives” – left him jobless because this victim exacerbated situations. Then, the PM appointed (by exercising his Ministerial discretion against the recommendation of a Selection Committee) another “marital relative” to a very, very senior position. I mention no names here out of respect for them but these things happened and therefore there is a track record of intention and knowledge.
Thirdly, what I did not say in my published statement was that the senior public servants under threat for their jobs all have Demo backgrounds either through their families or through their own convictions. But, let me say that they achieved their job status through merit, education and career promotions in the public service. They were not appointed to their jobs because of their political affiliations. However, they are poised to fall victim to the kind of thinking that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, including his caucus have. As I have said before several of them were approached by no less than Ministers and told of the inevitable. In several cases, hints were made to them by people who could in fact effect termination of appointments.
Lastly I believe that it is the intention of the PM to have key public service posts taken up by his non-Demo people so that he could govern without obstacles. I also believe that the PM will affect that and will of course get someone else to do the dirty work for him so he could deny knowledge of any such dastardly deeds. So keep your eyes out, it will be a systematic cleansing of the public service of Demo supporters but for sure it will be a betrayal of the principles of Democracy such as transparency, fairness and the right to express political opinions or have political affiliations. Under my leadership of a Demo government, merit and ability stands high for people to work in the public service not mere politics. -Leader of the Opposition, Wilkie Rasmussen

Youth offending requires new strategies
Minister Heather said on the first Tuesday of each month, police, neighbourhood watch’s, and security meet to identify issues within the community like juvenile crime, burglary, under age driving, domestic violence and abuse, accidents and alcohol and drugs, and what they can do to solve these problems. These groups plan to engage with the community and work with families, church groups and schools in order to help address these issues and consider solutions.
The Minister said the crime rate on Rarotonga has increased as tourism has increased with tourists relaxing and letting their guard down therefore providing opportunities for random, opportunistic offending. By comparison, crime rates in the outer islands are very low.
The Minister said Police have identified four children all under the age of 16, the youngest being 12 yrs as the ones committing the majority of offences.
He said responsibility needs to begin at home, with the parents.
These children, he said, are being influenced by foreign cultures and access to new technology like the internet and violent films. Youth returning from overseas had more knowledge of the laws and their legal rights and were influencing other youth.
Welfare groups have met with parents and families about punishment for young offenders. Most are put on curfew and are constantly checked by police at their curfew times. There are many young juveniles that aren’t educated enough about the many consequences of committing crimes and the impact it has on a future career for them.
The Minister said he wants public community consultations to start on possible solutions.
The Minister said it is time that society considered other means to prevent offending such as diversion into trade training or community projects that will teach and equip youth with useful skills so they can lead productive lives. -Ioana Turia

Consultants to check on TAU’s grid stability
Two Australian consultants have arrived on a week long, mission funded by the University of New South Wales and involving Te Aponga Uira (TAU.)
The Herald spoke with Geoff Stapleton Managing Director, and Matthew O’Regan from Global Sustainable Energy Solutions Pty Ltd, New South Wales. Geoff advised they are here on a University of New South Wales funded programme and would be looking into the grid stability of TAU’s system and will be monitoring the TAU grid for the effect of renewable energy penetration.
While in Rarotonga, they have also offered to conduct a seminar on PV (photovoltaic-solar power) systems for TAU staff and others from the private sector.
They will also speak to Boyd Ellison at the Trade Training Centre about developing training courses and a curriculum based on recently developed competency standards for the design and installation of PV (solar) systems to power grids. Later, they hope to be able to offer to run training courses.
Geoff acknowledged TAU has a problem with the national grid accepting additional energy created by privately owned renewable energy generators like solar and wind power generators, in that TAU’s capacity is limited and extra energy has to be capped at 2 (kilowatts)kW .
In Australia, Geoff co-chairs the Renewable Sustainable Energy Technical Advisory Committee set up under the Industry Training Advisory Board for the Electrical Industry. He also sits on various Standards Committees.
As a trainer, Geoff said because renewable energy is an evolving technology, it was important to keep up to date with developments. -Charles Pitt

Welsh netballers enjoying Rarotonga

The Welsh netball team has arrived on Rarotonga to battle it out with Scotland and our very own local netball team. Welsh players, Kyra Jones, Sophie Morgan and Nicola James visited CITV for a prompt interview on Radio Cook Islands and with the Herald. Wales is currently ranked 10th in the world but ranked 9th in the World Cup Netball Championship, which took place in Singapore. They are regular “opponents” for Scotland, as they play against them every year. The Welsh team goes through intensive training in order to improve their speed and fitness on the netball court with the support of their captains, Suzy Drane and Sara Hale. Kyra, Sophie and Nicola are finding their stay on Rarotonga an enjoyable one because of our relaxed environment and warm hospitality. Their first game is on Thursday 11th, against Team Cook Islands, so be there to cheer them on. -Norma Ngatamriki

Watch this space, art in progress

Master artist Michael Tavioni, is slowly making progress with the establishment of his proposed Art Gallery and Life skills Institute. It has been a project Tavioni has contemplated for a long time and thanks to the generosity of several donors, he is now able to make a tentative start.
The proposed site is located on the back road in Atupa, across the road from his workshop and next to the Whale Centre.
When the Herald called on Tuesday morning, workers and a bulldozer were in the process of clearing the last remaining vegetation and trees from the site. Tavioni said the area being cleared is approximately 120 by 120 feet and the proposed building will take up an area of about 75 feet by 90 feet. It will be built in three stages with the centre portion first. The building will extend back from the road towards the hill at the back and will comprise three levels.
When completed, it will accommodate an art gallery to exhibit a permanent collection of local art either donated or purchased by the gallery. Another section will be devoted to the teaching of a variety of life skills. These may include carving on wood, stone, shell and coral, welding, tattooing, poetry, film and photography, as many forms of art such as fabric printing.
He also has plans to set up little kikau huts outside the building where anyone can paint, carve and draw. He also plans to have an area where artists can relax over a coffee and discuss art matters. He hopes it will become a regular meeting place for local artists.
Tavioni has also identified a number of people who are willing to teach the different life skills and arts. He is looking at a minimum of 5-6 people teaching. -Ioana Turia

Police Report
Speaking to the Herald on Monday morning, Constable Martin Iro of police reported 2 fatal motor vehicle accidents that occurred within the last 3 weeks, 1 being in Muri and the other in the village of Avatiu. Both drivers were under the influence of alcohol. There were cases where police have caught drivers driving their motorcycles with their passenger, mainly young children being seated at the front of the motorcycle. Police have also reported cases where there are more than two passengers on one motorcycle. This is not acceptable and is against the law.
There were several cases of burglary over the weekend that are now pending and police are also interviewing eye witnesses with regards to the cases of burglary. There were 7 cases of noise control that were reported to police over the weekend and the police would just like to say that “if you’re having a party, please bare a thought of people that are living within the area”.
Now with school holidays upon us, police have been out on the roads and have stopped a number of underage drivers. Short message from police, “If you’re not of age, don’t drive”. This is a concern to police because the majority of motor vehicle accidents are caused by underage drivers, mainly because they are unfamiliar with the rode codes. If you are caught driving a motor vehicle underage, police will meet with your parents and discuss the issue.
The main message from police advises the public not to drink and drive. If you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol, you will be taken into the police station and be disqualified from driving for 12 months. You may also appear before the court where you will be required to pay a court fee.

My holiday so far
The fact that I still wake up at seven in the morning bugs me a little, but because it’s for a good cause (you know, working for money, not staying at home during the day) I still manage to drag myself out of bed. Somehow, my mum doesn’t bother yelling at me to get up anymore because, honestly, I won’t listen (especially if I went to sleep at two in the morning) So, up I get and on I go. Zooming off to work is kind of like heading to school, except I don’t have to catch the bus.
I always begin my mornings at work with signing a time book and general cleaning duties. I can’t really complain about the latter because I like working in a clean, tidy environment. The “Big Boss” usually tells me what stories to follow up on, who to annoy for information etc. It’s an everyday thing for me, so I don’t worry too much about it. Chasing down an interview isn’t all that easy, but I reckon it’s a good experience for me to build up my confidence and interviewing skills.
If I asked my mum for the bike, she’d just blow her horn, so I didn’t bother. It sucks that I have to rely on others for a ride around, but at the same time, it’s a fun adventure. Once, we (“my crew”) were driving like we were on a Formula One track (yup, we were going fast, but I’m not telling for what news item) And then we finally arrived to our destination, looking as fresh as ever. I love it when my job takes me to unexpected places and to meet other people.
Someone who has recently joined our “forces” is Ioana, an awesome-as girl who is starting out in the workplace. She reminds me a lot of…me, actually, when I first started. You’ve probably seen her on TV already, reading out the local news to an audience all over the Cook Islands AND maybe you’ve heard her voice on Radio Cook Islands, reading out news briefs. Hehe, she’s a real natural. (Ioana, if you’re reading this, believe it when I say, YOU ARE AWESOME! Especially when we go out for lunch and when you buy little snacks)
Yes, I probably regret all the time that I’m missing out on, like, I could be going around to koka with my mates, but I chose to be stuck in an office and flagging down stories because I’d rather be productive with my time. For me, writing up stories and interviewing people is the most productive thing that I can do with my time. Most kids think that working during their school holiday is a waste of valuable time (Trust me, sometimes I feel the same way) but really, when you’re getting paid for “work experience”, I can’t just turn down that opportunity. -Norma Ngatamariki

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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