Foreign Affairs works to extricate girl

Saturday June 01, 2019 Written by Published in National
Detainee Puna Raela. 19053009 Detainee Puna Raela. 19053009

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working closely with both New Zealand and the United States government officials to resolve the controversial detainment of a nine-year old Cook Islands girl in the US.


Puna Raela was detained in Los Angeles at the International Airport by US authorities when she was travelling from Rarotonga earlier this week with a close family friend and Aitutaki resident, Marc Pearce, who is a US citizen.

The ministry has asked Cook Islanders and those concerned to remain patient as officers are working hard to get Raela into safety and in good hands.

The ministry states that its officials are focusing on extricating the child by working through a difficult and prolonged long process in the US and it is possible she could be back on the next direct flight to Rarotonga this weekend.

Meanwhile, comments received on the CINews Facebook page about the issue are

calling for prayer support for the young girl.

Others are questioning why Pearce was given approval to take the young child for a vacation.

One asked: “Why do you detain a nine-year-old child? My prayers are for her and her whanau, and hope diplomatic intervention returns her home safely soon.”

Another said: “US citizen Marc Pearce had previously taken four of Puna’s siblings for a holiday. Here is the "problem" for the US government, as they probably suspect child trafficking or illegal immigration. You're apparently not allowed to be kind with others anymore.”

Others have reiterated not to make assumptions about Pearce as he is not at all being detained but it was important to know if Raela is being treated with the respect she deserves.

A close relative to Pearce told CINews that the 71-year-old American is like a second grandfather to the Raela children, where he would take the children to the US for vacations.

 Aimee Miller claimed that Pearce had all the required documentation showing he had permission from the parents, her passport, notarised documents, everything Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could need to pass them through customs, but CBP stopped them nonetheless.    

On the CINews website one reader said: “If you have the right document no worries though I think none of the parents is there and she is with a man who is not her parent. I can see why the authority is only following rules and the girl is under age, so they have to make sure of the girl’s safety.”

Another said: “To be able to experience another country is a real eye opener but to be detained is a scary thing especially for a young girl who doesn’t know anyone else.

“To those that are saying what were the parents thinking, there’s no need to put more burden and hardship on the parents. They entrusted their neighbour with their daughter and if their neighbour has taken their other children to the US before then they wouldn’t need to worry and also if they trust their neighbour with their children why would they feel threatened or worried?”

She said the question to ask was why was Puna detained and on what grounds.

Another said that Pearce is an upstanding member of the community in Aitutaki.

She said she knew the child is safe with Pearce.

One woman spoke out saying that that she hopes and prays that the matter is resolved as she knew Pearce since elementary school and they have remained good friends throughout the years.

“I would not only trust him with my life but also with the lives of any child. I met two of Puna's sisters on their previous visits when they stayed with Marc's family in Michigan.

“Marc has shared many stories with me about Puna's family and knowing Marc as I do, I would never be concerned about the welfare of any of her family while in Marc's care. Puna's family basically adopted Marc since he moved to Aitutaki.

“This was supposed to be Puna's fun trip to the United States and now it has been destroyed. Please, please, whoever is responsible for this error in judgment, get this situation resolved and get Puna back to Marc and her family. I can only imagine how frightened this little girl is.”

1 comment

  • Comment Link Maria Mataiti-Orika Sunday, 02 June 2019 09:44 posted by Maria Mataiti-Orika

    I have no DOUBT Marc PEARCE is well Trusted by the Raela Family of Aitutaku and according to the infos, he has taken other children from this family for vacation to America before and no problems as such arised previously yet all documents provided. Please let's not make accusations and assumptions & am SURE the Cook Island Government's Departments are doing their utmost Best to solve this confusion. GOD BLESS this little girl & family and also Marc Pearce & your family!!!

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