THE ARONGA Mana of Rarotonga have been prevented by the government from delivering a profound message to the European Union and a Spanish purse seine factory ship organisation – that they’re not welcome in the Cook Islands, a traditional leader says.
At a meeting on Tuesday night, Aronga Mana (traditional leaders) were preparing for a face-to-face with EU and OPAGAC (Producers Association of Large Tuna Freezers) representatives to tell them directly their purse seiners and fishing agreement aren’t wanted here. But that didn’t happen.
Acting Marine Resources minister Mark Brown didn’t want the EU representative Roberto Cesari and two OPAGAC reps exposed to the anger, speeches of condemnation, spears and traditional attire of the Aronga Mana who had gathered Tuesday evening for the EU/OPAGAC presentation at Parekura Conference Centre, says Apai Mataiapo Komono William Framhein.
Apai says MMR secretary Ben Ponia declined the Aronga Mana permission to deliver their message at the meeting in front of the overseas delegates and before their purse seining presentations.
According to Apai, minister Brown had make it clear the overseas delegation would not be present for the Aronga Mana message. Ponia had offered a separate meeting between the Aronga Mana and delegates which was declined.
Traditional leaders made their stance known to just Ponia.
Ipukarea Society director Kelvin Passfield says dismissing the Aronga Mana was disrespectful of the traditional leaders and adds that it was “very unfortunate” the government didn’t allow the EU delegation to face the traditional leaders and hear their dissatisfaction. Passfield believes as the agreement is with the EU and plans are for Spanish purse seiners to fish here, their representatives should have faced the Aronga Mana.
Questions from the floor were limited by meeting facilitator Teresa Trott and attempts by locals to discuss or challenge responses from the delegates were over-ruled.
A large number of people who attended the MMR organised meeting say they’ve come away even more frustrated. It’s being questioned why the EU/OPAGAC presentations are being held when the government has already signed the EU deal.
Video footage shows the majority of locals who spoke at the meeting were not in favour of the EU agreement or Spanish purse seiners.
Tuesday’s event is being carried by a number of regional media including Maori TV in New Zealand, with interest also shown by TV One.