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Letter: Rethinking ‘village politics’

Wednesday 28 February 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion


Letter: Rethinking ‘village politics’

Dear Editor, It’s been a few years since I have had to deal with someone having a go at me for my opinion and making it personal (Letter: Village voters, February 20).

There is a quote that I particularly like, and it goes something like this: An opinion is of no value if you don’t know anything about the subject. To the letter writer who of course is anonymous I say, you don’t know me, you haven’t spoken to me in a manner that tells you what I’m about, you haven’t bothered to educate yourself on what the real issues are in our society, you just want to mouth off with little or no idea what you are talking about.

You propose nothing that helps our country become more economically resistant, you propose nothing about emerging technology that will connect our people, you propose nothing about how we can raise the living standards of our people. Instead, you want to baby cry about what I’m about and add very little to the conversation except go into grievance mode.

As for having a go at me, thanks, I agree I am arrogant, I can be obnoxious, I have no filter and of course I can be accused of being opinionated. That’s old news, everybody who knows me agrees with your summation and it doesn’t stop them seeking me out for my opinion. It’s a badge I wear proudly because that’s who I am, I speak my mind consistently, I never waver in my opinions, unlike many. I am who I am, and this is a constant, I speak and say what most people will only think and wish they could.

I was brought up in a village and like all the children in my family we were encouraged to ask questions no matter how hairy they were. I am the son of a chief on both sides of my family, I was groomed for this role from the time I could walk and talk. I was encouraged to ask, to enquire, to state my case, it was part of my inheritance, ingrained in me, to listen, assess, analyse and then respond as someday I was going to be the head of our whanau. So, it came to pass, I inherited those titles when my father and my koro on my mom’s side passed. I wear the korowai with absolute honour, and I kowtow to no one especially anonymous writers.

In my family unlike in many villages here, we were not bashed for asking questions or for hanging around, we were not threatened or sworn at or chased away as being nuisances, we were encouraged to speak up. Not here, I see it with my own eyes, I hear it with my own ears. That is not a lifestyle for encouraging our children, our future leaders or our future politicians. The way villages bring up children here, it’s no wonder they are too frightened to stick their heads above the parapet unless they get the bash. It’s no wonder they are risk averse, it’s no wonder they don’t want to get offside at work, it’s no wonder they have bad work ethics, it’s no wonder they don’t want to go that extra yard, the village did this to them and it continues to this day.

Our nation is riddled with the village choices dipping their dirty mitts into the public purse, this is your village democracy at work and you expect me not to write about this. Since Albert Henry was caught rorting the system, we have had decades of village favourites using the village democratic process to rort the system for their own selfish needs. What? You expect me not to write about this and you call me offensive and racist. Think again.

In my family we were encouraged to vote for whomever we thought would best serve our interests, not the village favourite, or the person who bribed, treated and generally bought the votes that they needed to get into politics. Not here. The writer talks about democracy in the village, there is no such thing, that is not democracy, that is coercion on a massive scale. Fathers and mothers forcing their outlook on life, their voting preferences on their adult children and threatening or coercing them to follow their ethics, treating them as if they have no mind or no choice in the matter. No wonder they leave for opportunity elsewhere. This village life you espouse is not for them to our detriment as a nation.

Vote in the village idiot, forgive their past sins, their womanising, their philandering, domestic violence, their fraud, their criminal behaviour. The hypocrisy of those who call themselves Christians, that is who the village vote into politics. Don’t try and persuade myself and others that this is normal village life dynamics, because if you believe this then you are supporting a lifestyle that goes against all Christian values and ethics.

I went campaigning in my village of Nika’o and what do I get, “when was I putting on a kaikai, when was I going to hand out the cartons of chickens, when was I going to do this that and everything else that they wanted”. They could not get to grips with the benefit comes after the hard work and not before. By perpetuating this village lifestyle, you and others like you, have created and continue to support a generational noose around the village.

A nationwide welfare system that denies the very people who need help from reaching their potential by keeping them in a perpetual hand out, what is in it for me situation rather than promoting a hand up, that is not the connection for sustainability or resilience of our people.

I distinctly remember a time when folks here told me to fluff off back to where I came from and deny that I was a Cook Islander, in fact they were highly put out that I was claiming I was Cook Islander, shows their ignorance and how poorly educated about what akapapa actually means. Well sorry about it toto is toto, I am where my tupuna came from, and I cannot be denied, no matter what you say or do.

My final point goes back to the beginning of the anonymous writer’s opening comments that what I wrote was, “highly offensive and racist”, one cannot be offensive when the truth is evident in my response, and one cannot be racist to one’s own race, unless the letter writer thinks I’m a honky. I may look like a honky to some but my DNA tests out at 87.5 per cent Polynesian, with a smattering of Scandinavian and Celtic.

Te Tuhi Kelly

Leader of the Progressive Party of the Cook Islands