Corruption claims sour festival

Monday August 10, 2015 Written by Published in Culture
Rakahanga were extremely disheartened to learn that their highly praised Kapa Rima performance on July 27 was only scored in the B Grade. Rakahanga were extremely disheartened to learn that their highly praised Kapa Rima performance on July 27 was only scored in the B Grade.

Claims of corruption and concerns over the unfair treatment of dance teams have arisen following the closing of Te Maeva Nui 2015.

Two dance team leaders have come forward with accounts of political power plays behind the scenes and are hoping more people will speak up for the sake of change.

Jacob and Tofu Helen Samson from the Rakahanga team say they were extremely disheartened to learn that their highly praised Kapa Rima performance had been scored so low, and said it was just another example of unfair practises. 

Jacob says the Rakahanga team were struck by the loss of one of their girls in a fatal crash, but were told by family to keep moving forward with their performances to honour their team member.

He says for this reason, they were troubled by the alteration to Friday and Saturday’s original and agreed upon schedule so Manihiki could have a day of mourning. 

Jacob says Manihiki used the day to practise tirelessly before their performance on Saturday, which was unfair to the rest of the teams.

However, a Manihiki team member, who asked not to be named has disputed this claim, saying they didn’t use the day to train at all.

Jacob says they then learned that the schedule had been changed so that Manihiki would perform last, instead of Rakahanga.

When he took his concerns to Secretary of Culture, Sonny Williams, saying that Rakahanga did not want the changed schedule, Jacob says the response was shocking.

“Williams said that he is the boss, and if he wants to change the schedule, he will change the schedule,” Jacob says.

When Jacob refuted this, he says Williams told him that Rakahanga had an hour to decide if they would perform in their new spot or not, and if not, they would be disqualified.

“I told him that his reputation was on the line for unfair treatment, and he said he didn’t care and that he and the Prime Minister had already agreed on the change, and then he walked off,” Jacobs says.

Jacobs also emphasised that his concerns were not targeted at the Manihiki team, but only lay with the people in power not doing things right.

“All dance teams need to be treated fairly, and equally, for the sake of the younger generations who work their butts off every year and want to keep coming back,” he says.

When talking about the results, Jacob says he has been inundated with texts, calls and Facebook messages from people who can’t believe their performance was ranked so low.

“Many people told us our performance was one of the best Kapa Rima’s seen in years, and they just can’t believe the results.”

Helen Samson spoke up too, saying everyone who participated in the performances worked tirelessly, and mostly with their own time and money, because they love their culture.

“We paid our own fares here and give our own time to the Rakahanga dance team, but we love it and we love our culture. But young ones may as well go do hip-hop if this treatment continues.”

She also says they were discouraged to learn that Sonny Williams had visited Manihiki to talk to the dance teams ahead of the competition, but had not also gone to Rakahanga nor had they heard any kind of welcome from him when they arrived on Rarotonga.

Helen claims when they were ‘threatened’ by Sonny Williams for disagreeing with the schedule change, the whole team morale just dropped.

“The young ones were crying, and everyone was just disappointed that all their hard work and training might have been for nothing,” she says.

But, determined not to let their preparations go to waste, Helen says the team did end up performing their Ura Pau on Saturday night, despite the commotion.

Both Helen and Jacob are calling for a change in the way the Te Maeva Nui competition is run behind the scenes, saying it is becoming discouraging for the younger people.

“We don’t want to leave the standard where it is, we want the younger generation to keep raising the bar and to not just accept this kind of treatment,” Jacob says.

“The people in power need to do things right and treat everyone fairly.”

CI News tried to contact Sonny Williams for his side of the story but we were unable to get a response before the newspaper was printed .

7 comments

  • Comment Link Ota Tuaeu Saturday, 22 August 2015 01:25 posted by Ota Tuaeu

    Te akaro'a, this is a celebration not a competition. There was the passing of a Manihiki team member and Manihiki rightfully requested a change of spot that they may be able to console the family of young person concerned. Decisions have to be made quickly and in this instance I feel that the correct one was made. I have pasted a portion of Margaret Ioane's comments to show how some serious thinking had gone into the decision.
    "He said that Mauke have also done this a week earlier. He was given the big NO at first. So he took a support person and spoke of 'traditional values and beliefs' in in Our Manihiki and Rakahanga way. Bereavement times are family times to allow the process of emotional healing, even if its for a period of just a day".

    "In regards to Manihiki not observing but rather they practiced tirelessly. This is nonsense. I called my daughter on Thursday and Friday, she clearly told me that they have not been dancing due to the fact that they are observing the death of her aunty"

    This paragraph rather explains in full the position of the Manihiki team, neither combative nor arrogant. Sad that Jacob is not able to accept decisions made by persons other than himself. I hope that his behaviour does not jeopardise the ability of other teams from New Zealand and Australia to return home in the future and take part in competitions. Again, this was a celebration and not a competition should always be seen in that light.

    Kia manuia.

  • Comment Link margaret ioane Tuesday, 11 August 2015 11:23 posted by margaret ioane

    Kia orana tatou e te iti tangata. Ei manako akairi uaatu ki runga i teia tataanga atikara. How Manihiki came to observe the passing away of our sister Bernice, to pay our respect to Party Johnson her father, and her brother Mokoha members of the Manihiki group. This is how it is practiced in Manihiki and it has been done for years. Ask any Manihikian, they can confirm this. My team leader informed us that he went directly to Tauranga Vananga to request for Manihiki to be allowed to observe that day to honour uncle Party and Mokoha. He said that Mauke have also done this a week earlier. He was given the big NO at first. So he took a support person and spoke of 'traditional values and beliefs' in in Our Manihiki and Rakahanga way. Bereavement times are family times to allow the process of emotional healing, even if its for a period of just a day. Later Manihiki got the call to say that there request have been considered now but they can only perform last on Saturday night as they are first with the Pee and because they are not part of the normal program, they will be considered the etra item for night and this should allow them ample time as they are also performing their Pee on the same night. That should be alright as the commitee have heard their plea. Manihiki was greatful for the consideration of the commitee. In regards to Manihiki not observing but rather they practiced tirelessly. This is nonsense. I called my daughter on Thursday and Friday, she clearly told me that they have not been dancing due to the fact that they are observing the death of her aunty. Tera ua e te iti tangata. Auraka tatou e noo manamanata, kare e puapinga e rauka mai. Kia Manuia.

  • Comment Link NMC Tuesday, 11 August 2015 04:58 posted by NMC

    50th Maeva Nui Celebration that had just ended, Everything should be over Kabut.
    All these humongus noise by Rakz, Please! Please! Leave Sonny Williams out of it.
    If you are with the LORD JESUS CHRIST you would just humble yourself and accept whatever prize or position the JUDGES have given.
    For these Judges were appointed by the people.
    And also leave Manihiki out of your Humongus noise.
    Kote tu rai oki teia o na tamariki Rakz! me kare ratou e re, ka akriri ratou ia ratou, no reira kua tano rai e e Re-ke ta ratou.
    May God bless us all the Cook Islands People.

  • Comment Link Well that says it all..by jacob samson..tika anga te au judges should be fare to all dance groups. Tuesday, 11 August 2015 00:43 posted by Well that says it all..by jacob samson..tika anga te au judges should be fare to all dance groups.

    Well that says it all

  • Comment Link Tuaiva tuaiva Monday, 10 August 2015 22:50 posted by Tuaiva tuaiva

    I Disagree maybe because the too people in the article no what it feels like to be pushed aside finally.... its a 50year CELEBRATION not a COMPETITION because if you say you put your heart into it an give it your all thats all that matters leaving a print in peoples hearts not points or grades... yes maybe the judges need to apprehend but at the end of the day one love kia manuia

    Mangaian saayin

  • Comment Link Helen miria Monday, 10 August 2015 17:39 posted by Helen miria

    I think it's time to make a change ,we don't need dishonest people .we need people whom we can trust.I believe when Politics get involve that's the problem starts. You need fair and honest people to run these things

  • Comment Link Theresa Tarani Greig Monday, 10 August 2015 14:42 posted by Theresa Tarani Greig

    I totally agree with the leaders from Rakahanga henua after 50years birthday Te Maeva Nui 2015 celebrations... Corruption pasted around the world...I was in the Manihiki Te Maeva 2009 we received the same bad as treatment from the Ministry of cultural staff....these people in power struggle should not be allowed to help any island competing in the festivals its called in big words conflict of interest....they should stand back and be the good cops....and the judges its time to scrutinize and upgrade ....your seats getting hot now...we do have good honest Cook islands people out there....ask me I know who they are...tirelessly promoting our Cook islands around the world...lastly please to our Cook island people because of the incompetent of our staff in the Ministry of cultural... This caused alot of argument between the sister islands Manihiki and Rakahanga.... An apology from them should bring peace to our nation and our beautiful islands of manihiki and Rakahanga.... Meitaki maata ra...

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