There must come a time when people see their silver lining on the horizon. For politicians, life in the halls of power can be torrent and on a number of occasions blood will be drawn when you are in the front line.
To survive such obstacles and still serve as a Member of Parliament for more than 15 years must say something about the fortitude of my brother Teina Bishop.
Tears welled up in my eyes when on Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Henry Puna announced the Deputy Prime Minister to be Teariki Heather, MP for Akaoa in Arorangi. When the announcement was made by way of a ministerial statement from Puna, “the Bishop” was not in the house. In fact, he came into the house after I put the question to the PM as to whether he made a promise to Bishop that he would be appointed as DPM. The PM denounced my question as one not worth answering and denied making such a promise.
Perhaps my use of the word “promise” was misplaced but there was indeed an understanding that the most experienced and long serving MP for government would get the deputy’s job. This sort of treatment of a loyal lieutenant reminded of the deplorable way the Cook Islands Party (CIP) and Henry Puna treated the current Queen’s Representative, Tom Marsters, when he was an MP. Before the elections and during a CIP conference he was overlooked as leader of the party. That was taken over by Henry. That basically blew his chances of ever becoming PM after several decades of service. Hence when the QR’s post became available Tom opted for it and out of politics. We are seeing a similar treatment dished out to Teina. He was unwanted in 2010 as Minister of Finance and now rejected as DPM. Is Teina being forced to see his silver lining? Most probably!
This is nothing personal against Teariki Heather, who I understand issued an ultimatum to the PM in Cabinet that if he does not get chosen, the CIP will be in grave trouble. People say that he is not necessarily a popular person as he is choosy about what he fights on behalf of the government. He tends to maintain his silence unless an issue benefits him. I’m sure he will do his best but I’m of the view that his appointment may be the break in the back of the camel the country and the Democratic/Opposition Party is looking for. Will he be divisive because of his dominance and strong character? Will the PM now be constantly looking over his back in case he gets toppled? At least with Bishop, he relishes the role of being “putokotoko” (assistant) to his traditional leaders; Henry could enjoy the luxury of governing undistracted. I know this quality of Teina to be genuine.
The question here is where to from now on for “the Bishop”? It had taken the PM many months to make the DPM appointment. That delay gave credence to the thinking that Henry was waiting for the investigations into Bishop’s relations with the Chinese multi-national fishing company Luen Thai and several of its directors.
This may take some time to complete. This perception therefore gives rise to the notion that the PM is leaving Bishop as a meal for the jackals after his head and moving on. It also fuels the speculation that the PM’s favoured DPM was Minister Mark Brown, who he chose over Teina to handle the finance job. The PM says his decision had unanimous consensus among his minister’s; I’m not sure about his caucus. At least the other two Aitutaki MPs would support Teina, for pride and integrity of their island and indeed for the notion that Aitutaki deserves a political reward for being the second biggest contributor to the economy of the country.
I have come to know Teina over the years and he and I have always respected each other’s skills in the political arena, and he is one mean and clever operator. He has saved the governments he was a member of many a times and has been a dedicated and compassionate son of the Cook Islands. To ignore him is a travesty that could hurt this government despite his investigation. I think on this occasion, the PM has pushed my brother to cross the line of no return. There is one thing about Teina, when his mind is made up; no-one can change it.