Government seems bereft of new ideas

Monday May 07, 2018 Written by Published in Tropical Chronicles
Prime minister Henry Puna and the Ambassador for the People’s Republic of China to the Cook Islands, Wu Xi, pictured at last Friday’s opening of the new Apii Nikao. Columnist Wilkie Rasmussen has accused the prime minister of failing to show real leadership. 18050461 Prime minister Henry Puna and the Ambassador for the People’s Republic of China to the Cook Islands, Wu Xi, pictured at last Friday’s opening of the new Apii Nikao. Columnist Wilkie Rasmussen has accused the prime minister of failing to show real leadership. 18050461

‘So-so’ theme does CIP no favours

The Cook Islands Party (CIP) made two horrific mistakes lately.

First, it called a snap election, catching its candidates unprepared.

Secondly, it chose a “so-so” theme, not to win voters, but to invite voters to assess its performance for the last three-plus years, or since their first win in the polls in 2010. These mistakes have become all too clear since April 11 when parliament dissolved and the election date was set for June 14.

Let us examine these two mistakes carefully. It is clear now that since the announcement of the snap election, the CIP government has no new policies developed and ready for the 2018 elections. Two deficiencies are obvious.

First, there is an internal rift and power play between the Teariki Heather and Henry Puna factions. For some time now, we have observed the ambitions of deputy prime minister Teariki Heather unravel in challenges to the CIP leadership during CIP conferences.

His manoeuvres leading to another leadership challenge against Henry Puna for the prime minister’s job and of course, the position of leader of the CIP, is very evident. The DPM has focused his energy for several years now on recruiting candidates loyal to him. There is Mac Mokoroa in Nikao/Panama, Tuakeu in Mitiaro, Tai Turaa in Mauke, Patrick Arioka in Murienua, Tingika Elikana in Pukapuka and several other outer islands CIP candidates.

I understand this has unnerved Puna and was what triggered him to call a snap election in haste before the Maeva Nui celebrations, the time most likely earmarked for the CIP annual conference to take place.

Henry Puna shows visible signs of fearing Teariki Heather and has opted for the person he is grooming to take over the leadership from him, finance minister Mark Brown, to face up to the public on his behalf.

What kind of leader is this, who at the most critical time when he could prove his leadership, seems to hide in the shadows as if to con the public into seeing him as a fresh, unburdened leader? In my opinion this is the kind of leader who has no confidence in his own public profile.

The opposition Democratic Party and public critics have revelled in slamming the PM for his incessant international travel.

Last year he spent a third of the year -100 days, out of the country. That is more travel than any past prime minister. Very little justification was given for his constant departures overseas, although we heard the usual story about how important it was for him to travel.

While Puna travelled, the DPM stayed at home, obviously fuming, and plotting, while also getting richer through the Te Mato Vai contracts awarded to his company T&M Heather Ltd. Sadly though, those projects are beyond their scheduled completion time and their costs have increased. This is an indictment on a government that has failed to deliver one significant project.

I do not care what anybody says; this government has relented to the deputy prime minister’s threats, therefore ignoring any conflicts of interest Heather may have. That is why Henry fears his deputy.

The standoff between the PM and DPM is very real and it is not healthy if it is allowed to carry on. Henry cannot sack Teariki because he needs his number and it could result in a walkout by those loyal to Teariki. So, the people of the country go into an election with the CIP concealing this fundamental problem. I believe Cook Islanders are not that stupid and will see through it and vote for change,

Secondly, the CIP hasn’t announced any policy and we are now in the fourth week since the Puna’s announcement of a snap election. We have five weeks to go to the election. The CIP launched its campaign last week with a live television broadcast, but no policy. It focused on introducing CIP candidates. Candidates had three minutes to talk and freely spoke their own views. These were largely emotive opinions lacking coherency. It seems the CIP was relying on hype and emotion instead of treating the public with due respect. How about some answers to criticisms raised about the writing off of core taxes? 

This complacent party says, “Let us make it happen.”

How remarkable is that? Truly, what are they going to make happen, exactly? Allow the CIP to continue with the deeply, entrenched problem of division within the party and that will affect the way it will govern.

Are they going to allow further covering up of issues involving the DPM? Are they asking the PM to acquire further airpoints? Are they asking voters to allow them to continue ignoring issues such as the need to repair our potholed roads and address the problem of depopulation? Are they asking us to let them continue ignoring political reform, which has been a public concern for many years?

I have concluded that the CIP’s election theme reflects a lazy party which takes the public for granted. It illustrates clearly an ignorant attitude. They ignored the public when it questioned purse seine fishing. They ignored the elderly about taxing their New Zealand pensions and ignored the need to address problems with youth offending. The government took land from landowners in the northern group without proper consultation and now they are still waiting for compensation. It has created a fight with landowners in Rarotonga regarding their land caught up in the Te Mato Vai project. And then we hear the prime minister speak against the public’s concerns at the growing presence of China in our country. He obviously is oblivious to that concern because he is reliant on aid and aid alone. This government cannot provide the incentive to get this country into a viable, self-sustainable economic position.

The Democrats have at least put time and effort into producing policy.

 It is not a question of whether the public agree or disagree with some Demo policies. The question is about whether a political party demonstrates a caring attitude.

The Democratic Party is saying to the voters: “Vote us into office and we will work hard for you”.

I would rather trust someone who will work for me, than someone who ignores my views.

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