That was very good thing, because politics was secondary, not a primary feature in the lives of our people living in those islands.
When someone wanted to stand as a councillor, that was his business and no-one else was preoccupied with his plans.
In fact, a lot of humour starts to flow during such elections. But most importantly, families remained intact and people made personal choices rather than party politics as they would in national elections.
I have noticed however that during Henry Puna’s term as prime minister and leader of the Cook Islands Party he has set a deliberate agenda of politicising such elections.
Firsthand information from Manihiki is that he puts in a lot of “punchpower” behind the mayor of Manihiki to ensure she secures the position. I am told both financial resources and government services have been deployed to strengthen the position of his charge.
That facility has now of course been extended to the island’s councillors. Understandable, I suppose, as he needs to firm up his home base as MP for Manihiki.
But strangely enough, it never quite worked. He once lost to Apii Piho and he never quite won against Robert Woonton but for legalities that forced Woonton out. And the last 2014 elections he got pipped in the preliminary count by Piho but was saved by postal and special votes.
Well, the virus has now spread to the rest of the other islands. We hear now of MPs from both main political parties approaching families and individuals to vote for the candidate that represent their parties.
What we are witnessing is corruption of the innocence of the Outer Islands. That is sad and an indictment on Henry Puna and his style of politics – deliberate and corrosive.
Even sadder is the fact that the principle of devolution of the outer islands has been summarily curtailed by the PM and his co-horts. The thought that the outer islands should hold its elections freely of main island interference is but a fallacy.
From now on and into the foreseeable future, every local government and mayoral elections in the outer islands is controlled and determined by the power and political figures in Rarotonga.
I understand that this week and coincidentally, that the PM will charter a flight to visit the Northern Group Islands at a cost of $50,000 to campaign for the Cook Islands Party in those islands. And one can be assured that the same will happen in the Southern Cook Islands.
You see, this government won the 2014 national elections because of the two seats it snatched from the Democrats in the outer islands, namely Penrhyn and Rakahanga. These have traditionally been Demo islands since the first elections held in the 50 years of self government. The public have been told that the trip is to gauge support for purse seine fishing. Hard to believe, since the timing is perfect.
In the general elections of 2014, the CIP pumped a lot of taxpayers’ money for chartered air flights and transportation of machinery to the outer islands.
The PM and his cohorts are keeping in line with that sort of campaign formula and strategy but at the expense of being accused of corrupt practises.
Never before in the history of the Cook Islands have we seen such an increase in government spending, without due care and devoid of conscience. There seems to be no protocol or effort to safeguard public money.
The other day, I let loose my disgust and promise to fight against government’s plans to turn Penrhyn Island into a fishing hub. Apparently I have poked a hornet’s nest and there was immediate denial by the PM’s “talking head” and “attack dog” Trev Pitt.
The truth is, it was a well concealed plan designed to bamboozle the people of Penrhyn into thinking of immediate riches to be brought in by their government.
It is a sweet sell for the uninformed to win the Penrhyn mayoralty and council majority. But how low can one get?
I know Henry Puna wants to stamp on me and kick me for touch because of the danger I pose for him and his government. I also know he wants to get rid of the Penrhyn Mayor Tini Ford because of his conformity to Henry and Willie John’s ideas – stupid ideas, I must say.
If the government wishes to pursue with this plan, this might be one of those occasions where the resolve of a people whose heritage is being destroyed fights back.
And we know that when people have been backed into a corner and bullied the fight can be to the death.