PM’s global jaunts may unspin him

Wednesday July 03, 2013 Written by Published in Virtues in Paradise
PM’s global jaunts may unspin him PHOTO NEWSBIE PIX ON FLIKR

The people of the Cook Islands, at least those on Rarotonga, have been inundated with lots of photographs and follow-up write-ups from the Prime Minister Henry Puna and his spin doctor Trevor Pitt for the last week or so.

The images were also posted on Cook Islands Television (CITV) at prime time. I guess the thinking behind this flood of images and words was to say to the people of the Cook Islands that the PM is being transparent and open about his travels. Well that might be the theory; I imagine that would be the advice of his PR man. The reality is quite different. At the funeral of Tinomana Ruta Tuoro Ariki II also known as Mama Bear, a distinctive gentleman from the Cook Islands Party camp shook my hand and said to me: “The PM travels too much.” I nodded and smiled at him. His message was vey poignant because he was not the only one that said that to me. Some people were more specific. One said, “I want to read results from his trips, not photos of him with some third-rate staff member of the European Union”.

I guess the point being made here is, is this latest onslaught by the PM and Trev received well or are people being taken for fools by the two of them. Not one person I met and who spoke to me on the travels were fools. They could all see behind the veil an attempt to justify the globe-trotting.

One lady put it this way, which is a bit more probing: “The PM likes to have his photo taken beside young and beautiful women. Aue tau e!” she exclaimed. I’m not showing jealousy here if some of you are thinking that, but one cultivates an image doesn’t one? And images can lead others to make conclusions – as false as those conclusions may be. What is not false however is that Trev also likes to be in the picture which usually is a no-no for spin doctors, and he now wears a suit just like the PM. It begs the question, are they showing signs of guilt that these trips to the United States, to Paris and Brussels are just mere useless travel jaunts? In other words, they are for self-gratification rather than serious business of the nation.

Here’s how I see a Prime Minister visiting another country. He would meet with that country’s equivalent, PM or President if need be. In our PM’s case, he meets with officials within the European Union and ACP offices as displayed in the photos. I kid you not; such people meet with ambassadors or lower tier representatives of the country. When ex-PM Robert Woonton went for a state visit to China, the Chinese government laid out the red carpet and Woonton got a military salute. Our Head of State representative Sir Frederick Goodwin was also treated in the same way by the Chinese when he went over there – a police escort through the capital from the Beijing Airport. That’s the proper level of the PM.

Is Henry cheapening the status of our highest office by such meetings, or did he just turn up at the doorstep unannounced giving the country insufficient notice for their country leader to schedule to meet our country leader?

I know this to be true that whenever our overseas leaders come here we treat them with the most that we have, but when we go to their respective countries and if not properly planned and organised thorough foreign affairs and diplomatic circles, officials would be assigned to you for convenience. In fact I can tell you I met with several country leaders as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and with my equivalent in rank in the countries I visited when I was in cabinet. And I came back with funding from the European Union and with agreements with countries for funding proposals.

Ok, I should not gloat and it is not really characteristic of me to do so but I’m just illustrating a point. Puna should leave such meetings to officials. I suspect he is hogging these travel invitations not necessarily requested of him as PM (because he gets to see them first). It confirms the thinking that he has been truly bitten by the travel bug.

Meanwhile back at home, interest rates are still high, people are still leaving in droves, the Offshore Trust industry is being challenged, our fisheries are still under threat and burglaries are still high. Sorry people, the top man isn’t here to comfort you. Am I being trivial here or not? I’ll leave it to the readers.

Leave a comment