‘Unionist’ challenged to reveal identity

Tuesday July 18, 2017 Published in Letters to the Editor

So what have you got to offer, Unionist?


I have been following the ranting and raving of “Unionist” over the last couple of weeks and I have come to the following conclusions;

1.  Unionist does not own or manage a business in the private sector, because his view of the private sector in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands is so far removed from reality that either he is ignorant of the environment he is talking about or, he is deliberately fabricating facts and innuendos to suit his own assertions.

For Unionist to say that the Chamber of Commerce does not and cannot represent the private sector is plainly dumb! While the registered membership of the Chamber is around 100 (a large enough number by any organisation in the Cook Islands) the executive of the Chamber has representatives from other business groups such as the Tourism Industry Council, the Restaurant Association, the Business and Professional Women’s Association, the Bankers’ Association and the Pearl Farmers’ Association. Members and associate members of the Chamber are responsible for by far the major part of the private sector-generated GDP, VAT and PAYE. In other words, members of the Chamber employ at least 90 per cent of all legitimate workers in the private sector who pay tax to government. If this does not qualify the Chamber to speak on behalf of the business sector of this country can the Unionist tell us who does?

2. Unionist does not employ any taxpaying worker because he exhibits ignorance about the labour environment in the Cook Islands over the last couple of decades. The Cook Islands has been experiencing a critical shortage of labour over the last two decades and many employers have had to undertake the expensive and risky process of importing workers from overseas. Of course, like anywhere in the world, you have some unscrupulous employers who do not look after their workers properly. The Labour Department should sort these employers out.

For most employers, recruiting and keeping good workers is an essential part of good business management. When you must bring these workers from overseas you incur higher costs as well as running the risk, and hope that you have chosen a good worker that meets your requirement. I speak from experience as I have recruited workers for my businesses from Fiji and as far away as mainland China.

3. Unionist must work for government in a reasonably prominent position with an involvement in the workers/employers area, since he or she appears to know a fair bit about ILO issues.

Unionist firstly tries to defend the unfortunate decision made by some in government to send only its reps to the ILO conference despite their full knowledge of the commitment government made by signing up to be a member of the ILO. Unionist’s arrogant argument that the employers’ and workers’ reps should pay their own way to this meeting begs the question: aren’t the employers and employees of this country paying government representatives to this conference, since most of government income comes from the businesses and workers of this country?  

4. In berating the Chamber of Commerce and the CIWA, Unionist seems to suggest or threaten that he has something better to replace the Chamber of Commerce and CIWA. If you do Unionist, I and many others in the Cook Islands would like to hear it, because to me you are quick to criticise but have offered no solutions except to plead that businesses and workers should blindly follow whatever government decides.

I have been a member of the Chamber of Commerce for nearly 20 years and have served on its Executive for many of these years. The innuendo of the Chamber being a “papa’a club” has been around for as long as I can remember. In a way, this is true. You only need to look at the faces of members at Chamber meetings.  However, how do you change and get more brown faces in to this organisation?

The private sector of any democratic country grows and thrives on capital and human resource investment. If we want more Cook Islanders to engage in business in the private sector then we need government to articulate focused, bold and strategic policies to successfully promote these investment components for Cook Islanders.

Current efforts through BTIB and other allied agencies of government to promote investment in the Cook Islands and especially local businesses is achieving little and needs some major re-think and focus. For any investment in Cook Islanders to enter businesses in this country to succeed, we need to stop the depopulation of our country.

Until government clearly recognises depopulation as the greatest problem facing our country and develops a population policy that focuses on the medium to long term future we want for our country, the drain overseas of our most capable Cook Islanders will continue. Others who see the potential, take the risk and invest their money and efforts in our country and are entitled to enjoy the benefits of those efforts.

I could say more but suffice to say here that it seems to me the Unionist is the one with plenty of free time to write so much nonsense.

I wonder if you are writing these exposes in your own time or while you are being paid by your generous employer.

Incidentally, if you want to reply to this letter would you be brave enough to put your real name to your letter. Perhaps you will prove me wrong in guessing who you are.

            Temu Okotai

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