Elikana is one of three MPs representing the Cook Islands at this week’s Pacific Parliamentary Forum in New Zealand. He is accompanied by Patrick Arioka, Terepai Maoate Jr, and emerging political leaders from 15 Pacific countries and territories.
Mitiaro MP Tuakeu Tangatapoto of the Cook Islands Party was also supposed to attend the meeting but pulled out due to health reasons.
The Pacific MPs are expected to visit the electorate offices of several Auckland-based New Zealand MPs including Denise Lee, Aupito William Sio, Simon O’Connor and Louisa Wall.
Wall, a Labour MP and part of the party's Rainbow caucus, said LGBTIQ+ people had a right to exist and should not be criminals.
The criminalisation of homosexuality was “linked to colonisation” and undermined whakapapa and whanau relationships, she said.
“Many of us within the Government are concerned and we have asked how we can support the communities in the Cook Islands that are affected ... to provide support and evidence about the possible consequences of these political decisions.”
The forum takes place every three years and enables knowledge sharing on key issues and parliamentary practices, with the aim of building relationships and enhancing parliamentary democracy in the Pacific.
The first two days of the forum will offer delegates the opportunity to engage with Pacific communities and businesses in Auckland. The final two days of the forum will focus on exploring issues of importance to the Pacific through a series of debates and workshops
Vainerere said the MPs would have an opportunity to discuss important issues of concern in the country with fellow participants and learn new ideas to help them implement better policies.
New Zealand Parliament’s Speaker Trevor Mallard said it was a real pleasure to welcome fellow Pacific MPs. “The forum is a valuable opportunity to build on existing relationships and promote increased cooperation and political cohesion.
- Rashneel Kumar/Stuff