Speaking at Avarua’s Constitution Park in front of a large crowd of special guests and dignitaries, including Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters and new cabinet ministers Robert Tapaitau, Rose Brown and George Maggie, the prime minister also called for political differences to be cast aside.
“Having just come through the June general elections, let us please put aside our political differences and admit that we share this fantastic country of ours, our place, even though it may only be considered by some as a little dot on the world map. Nevertheless, it is ours,” said the PM.
“Let us therefore celebrate our history, the wisdom in determining our traditions, including the acceptance of Christianity, and in reflecting on our past, let us join together to build a vibrant future. Yes, let’s make it happen.”
Earlier, Puna began his official Te Maeva Nui opening speech by congratulating the Cook Islands cultural team that travelled to Hawaii in June to represent the country at the Polynesian Cultural Center there.
“The team represented our country with pride and distinction,” he said.
The PM also singled out new cabinet ministers Tapaitau, Brown and “my younger brother” George Maggie for special mention.
“Welcome to our celebration of the good things – and the not so good, but most importantly, the shared experiences that underpin our journey in this, our 53rd year of nationhood,” he told the gathered crowd.
And with so many from the pa enua having journeyed to Rarotonga for Te Maeva Nui this year, Puna also acknowledged that “we are especially blessed this year to have our brothers and sisters from our pa enua, who have joined us in Rarotonga for this celebration”.
“I have to say, that your being here makes this celebration even more special and complete, and we can call this a truly national celebration,” he said.
“I also want to take this opportunity to thank the government and people of Tuvalu and Tahiti for making available their nice, modern vessels, the Nivaga III and the Tahiti Nui, so that our people from the north can travel to Rarotonga and back home in comfort and in style.”