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Ruta Mave: Pacific Islands Forum: A lot of talk, but will any action follow?

Monday 6 November 2023 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Opinion


Ruta Mave: Pacific Islands Forum: A lot of talk, but will any action follow?
Pacific leaders have started arriving for the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting starting on Monday. At left: Minister Vaine “Mac” Mokoroa and Deputy Prime Minister Robert Tapaitau (fourth left) welcome the Kingdom of Tonga Prime Minister Siaosi ‘Ofakivahafolau Sovaleni (third left) and Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano. MELINA ETCHES/23110308

You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all the people all of the time. This is not who we are, we have history of it but we are not all like it. Some of us are honest, hardworking people who care about our people and some of us are politicians, writes Ruta Mave.

When I was younger, us kids had to do the dishes after dinner while the parents went to watch the TV. After we had finished, the kitchen was inspected to make sure everything was neat tidy and put away properly. We used to stand there on parade and wait hoping we had passed the white glove dust test so we too could go and watch TV. We used to joke it was as if the queen was coming to our little government housing in south Auckland. As annoying as it was, it taught us a lot about setting standards, work ethic and quality control. And regardless of the task and where you are in the financial pyramid, we learnt to do a good job even if the queen wasn’t coming.

Rarotonga and Aitutaki are standing on parade right now as we await the kings and queens of each Pacific nation to arrive to our little ocean volcano as part of the Pacific Forum gathering. We are definitely dressing everything to impress. We, like they do for the Olympics, are cleaning up the visuals so that we look better than we are. Nice roads, tidy trees, clean lagoon, fancy cars and places to stay.  We have fancy places for the tourists, and now we have nice roads, hopefully something from all this can truly add value to the lives of the locals long after the circus has left town. But will it teach us anything about work ethic, value or pride and achievement in who we are as a nation that will carry us on long after they are gone?

Hey, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, they say; milk it for all its worth, they say. Lots of delegates descending onto our island will bring revenue to the community. Will it? How much of the gifts they take home will be gifted, not bought? How much of our culture will they remember and treasure past November?

It’s all business and fancy catch phrases like ‘architecturing’ the framework of the projected horizons of whatever ... I can’t keep up. It sounds so intellectual and insightful and I am sure it gets lots of nods in the house when spoken from the podium with carefully placed pictures shining brightly from the screen behind. They will arrive with an air of importance of what they are going to do to save our Pacific nations. This forum that will discuss climate change and sustainability and the caring and sharing of bringing us all closer together. We heighten their sense of importance with electric cars, one each for the very high and mighty, and then carpool and buses for the excessive entourage of assistants and interns and whoever ... I can’t keep count.

The motorcade is going to do a run through. The secret services are doing all the checks and personal security is being trained for all eventual scenarios. This when our biggest police problems are petty crime on tourists, stealing lemons from local trees, drink drivers or driving without a registration and of course our domestic violence statistics which we will just keep quiet on while we stand under the spotlight.

The problem with being under the spotlight is it creates very strong shadows behind, shadows that hide our real problems. A spotlight whitewashes the person’s face on stage but it can’t disguise who they really are behind the cover-up makeup mask facing the audience. We show off smooth roads from the airport to their accommodation but not past our elderly suffering in rusty containers. We show off $1.7 million of electric cars but not the diesel generators that produce the electricity or the miles of shipping carbon footprint to get the diesel here.

We hail them as important valued guests allies in the common fight for the Pacific then greet them with our “under investigation” or “out of court decision pending” as the flag bearer of who we are. Is the ringmaster Prime Minister so sure that no one knows what’s going on here that he can’t anticipate them raising an eyebrow while being greeted by the once again reinstated Deputy Prime Minister? I am sure the Judge’s question was “is the charge theft or fraud?” Either way it shouldn’t be attached to anyone standing in front of them representing us as a people who are worthy of being trusted or relied on.