With her, will be the deputy prime minister of New Zealand, our friend and regular visitor Winston Peters. Included in the line-up of ministers in the delegation is the Minister of Pacific Affairs, William Sio, MP for Mangere. There will also be other politicians including a variety of advisers. I note that along with her will be our very own Cook Islands girl from Manihiki, Caren Rangi, a ground-breaker in terms of Pacific peoples’ engagement in business and government over in Aotearoa.
What is interesting about this visit is that it is done early in Ardern’s tenure as prime minister. This shows someone with a keen interest in the Pacific Island countries and their people. It shows she puts our interests high on her agenda. In most cases New Zealand prime ministers come to visit late in the piece, usually before an election in New Zealand. One can only guess that they come here to garner votes from those of us who still qualify to vote in New Zealand or from our relatives living there through us.
Yesterday I heard on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report, Arden responding to questions put to her about her trip to the Pacific Islands. She was very clear in saying that her trip is not to poke her nose into the affairs of Pacific countries. She said our financial management matters are for each one of us to deal with and New Zealand will not get involved. This is very refreshing in the sense that we have a modern-thinking woman PM who does not take an overseeing attitude over us “poor cousins” here in the tropics. I believe she is setting the pace for an interesting era in New Zealand /Cook Islands diplomatic relations.
I was very disappointed to hear of some people with overbearing religious agendas who disapprove of Arden coming to the Cook Islands. These views are not shared by the majority of Cook Islanders. How dare they bring some discriminating views to the table based on their religious beliefs before her visit there? This is clearly an act of sabotage or an attempt to sabotage Arden’s visit. It is so childish and silly.
Let it be known to all that the biggest organisation in the Cook Islands - the Democratic Party (based on the fact that more people voted for the Democratic Party in the 2014 elections) will welcome her with open arms. In fact, the Democrats will perform a traditional welcome chant for her and receive her warmly at the Opposition Office on Thursday for a good chat over mutual matters of interest.
I believe one matter that we must discuss with her will be how we can improve our relationship with New Zealand in this post-colonialist era. She seems the type of person who will take aboard and promote the issue of women leadership here in our country and I certainly will make sure that she hears about the advancement of women’s issues in Rarotonga and indeed in the Pacific overall.
In future and if it becomes the government, the Democratic Party will reciprocate with the New Zealand PM what she is bringing to us. We will take Cook Islands culture to her and get her to realise how important it is in the lives of our Pacific people not just in the islands, but also among those who live in urban areas such as Auckland or Wellington.
As leader of the Democratic Party I am sure my colleague William (Smiley) Heather Jnr will also join me in extending to her a warm and personal welcome to Rarotonga. Coincidentally, Thursday is Women’s Day and coincides with me meeting her in the position of a potential first woman PM of the Cook Islands.
It is a pity that she’s not able to travel to the outer islands to see the NZ Aid-supported solar energy projects that have revolutionised life in those islands. But she is only at the start of her three-year tenure, and hopefully she will find the time in future to visit again and travel to the outer islands.
- Tina Browne