Dear Sir, I applaud Nick Reeves for his thought provoking letter published in Cook Islands News on Tuesday that highlighted a number of high priority issues and challenges that our country needs to take stock of.
What is of the utmost importance is keeping the faith in terms of who are our most important partners. New Zealand and Australia. Not just in the past and currently but in the future as well.
We are Cook Islanders, but also New Zealand citizens. The
bond between New Zealand and Cook Islands is uniquely special so needs to be
treasured at all times.
Politicians come and go, but our special relationship will
remain just that. Special and long term. We have always received special
treatment from New Zealand and the tens of millions of dollars in funding that
New Zealand provided over two years to our country during the closure of our
borders due to Covid-19 is testament of that country's generosity and
recognition of the special bond between ourselves. Staying loyal through the
good and tough times.
Make no mistake, it is a genuine partnership that is based
on historical and existing ties which we are blessed with and which is the envy
of our Pacific Island countries. And because of this special relationship, this
has entitled us to hold New Zealand passports that allow us free access and
therefore employment for our people in both New Zealand and Australia.
We are so lucky in this regard and as far as I'm concerned,
New Zealand will always be our big brother, looking after the best, long terms
interests of our small country.
The level of trust and respect between both countries needs
to be always taken into consideration when our political Leaders entertain
forging closer diplomatic ties with other countries.
This brings me to China. I know that in recent months a
number of Pacific Island countries have been snuggling up to China as it
spreads its wings into our backyard.
To some degree, they cannot be blamed as these countries are
extremely poor with large portions of their working population unemployed and
facing severe financial hardships on a daily basis.
The leaders of these countries are desperate to explore
diplomatic and economic opportunities to better the lives of their people and
China reckons it can help. Yeah right. A bit like every project in the Cook
Islands that China built for us using their own inferior materials and shoddy
And guess who is now paying for the repairs? Us
So in his phone call with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi,
perhaps our Prime Minister needs to remind Yi of the tens of millions of
dollars spent by our own Government to repair all the shoddy Chinese projects
from the Ministry of Justice, Police HQ building, Indoor Stadium at Tereora,
the replacement of the water pipes in Muri and the primary school building in
For the Cook Islands, thankfully we don't face the same
level of daunting challenges that our neighbouring cousins do. So we must be
bold and remain steadfast in our loyalty to New Zealand. The same goes with our
tight bonds with Australia where so many of our Cook Islanders are employed
these days, raking in the big bucks working in construction. This is more so
with China desperately seeking to take their relationships with Pacific Island countries
to a new level, for it's own geopolitical agenda. For all Pacific Island countries, this is
both high stakes and uncharted and which may likely result in long term
consequences that will be out of our control.
To conclude, I am heartened that both our Prime Minister
Mark Brown, and the Leader of the Opposition, Tina Browne, have similar views
about China's rapid push into our region. Be extremely cautious, yet polite.
Keep them at arm’s length, and refrain from committing to initiatives where we
are merely pawns in a dangerous game of russian roulette. Remain loyal to New Zealand
and Australia. Better to be safe than
sorry when it comes to the Dragon.