Puna was to spoke about ocean conservation and the Cook Islands graduation from developing to a developed nation at a paid event held at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco last night.
But Democratic Party leader Tina Browne said Puna was not the right person to speak about the Marae Moana, the Cook Islands marine park.
Browne said the former director of Marae Moana Jacqui Evans, who was dismissed from her role in September last year, should have been given the opportunity.
“Jacqui Evans should be the one to make any speeches since it was her hard work commitment and inspiration that saw the Marae Moana established. Further I do not believe that the Marae Moana Council was consulted about this presentation,” Browne said.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Henry Puna was a guest speaker at the Commonwealth Club, and was accompanied by Marae Moana ambassador Kevin Iro.
Iro was the initiator of the Marae Moana concept, bringing it to government as an idea to preserve our ocean and ocean resources 10 years ago, the office said. Puna was supposed to speak on government’s role on Marae Moana.
However Tina Browne said the prime minister should instead “be making speeches to his people through Parliament, after all he is paid by the taxpayers of this country”.
“He should be planning a sitting calendar for Parliament for 2020. How can he spare the time on this self-promotion jaunt when Parliament needs to sit for a decent length of time? The taxpayers are not paying him to make speeches at some American country club.”
Browne also said the prime minister should be addressing pressing and priority issues at home such as “lack of shipping, Te Mato Vai debacle, To Tatou Vai disaster, no doctors and dentists in the outer islands, the alarming health statistics, and so on and so on”.
“It makes no sense for our people to celebrate our country’s graduation to a “developed nation status” when we cannot even address the very basic needs of our people particularly the outer-islands in terms of shipping and provision of doctors and dentists.”
Ben Ponia, chief of staff at the Prime Minister’s Office, was supposed to release a media statement following Puna’s address last night.
Tickets to the Commonwealth Club event in which Henry Puna spoke came with a fee of $10 to $58 per person.
Puna is expected to head to Abu Dhabi next for the World Future Energy Summit from January 13 to 16.