In Parliament on Monday, the PM praised the achievements of Miss Cook Islands 2019 Tajiya Eikura Sahay, for winning the Miss Oceania title and finishing sixth overall in the Miss World pageant in London.
However, after he finished complimenting Sahay at length, Democratic Party MP Selina Napa raised the thorny issue of why the country has two separate Miss Cook Islands pageant associations.
The Miss Cook Islands Association (MCIA) selected the representative to attend Miss World, while the Miss Cook Islands Pageant Association (MCIPA) selected the Miss New Zealand Cook Islands this year to attend Miss Pacific.
Napa asked the prime minister if government had a solution to bring peace between the two pageant committees and for them to merge.
However a quick-thinking Puna dodged a reply that could clearly have got him into hot water.
“I was really hoping that as a woman MP, that you would give me, the answer to the question that you asked,” he countered.
“If there is one thing that I don’t want to get involved in, it’s trying to sort out a problem between women.
“But we have seen the performances of the two different organisations, and I am sure our people are watching them, very closely.
“Honourable member, if you have any brilliant ideas in how to get women to get to work together, it would be most appreciated and welcome.”
Puna apologised for not commenting any further saying, “I have a severe conflict of interest, as my wife is the patron of the Miss Cook Islands Association.”
In his attempt to respond to Napa’s query, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown echoed the PM’s words.
“Trying to resolve the conflict between the two organisations (for) someone like me, is like putting my head inside a lion’s mouth.”
“At the end of the day, it is up to the two committees that have their own groups of leaderships; it is really a matter for them to get together and see if they agree on how we should be represented at these pageants.”
Brown welcomed a merger to establish one pageant group.
“As to how that would happen, it is best the women MPs look at combining their minds together to see how they can resolve these differences.”
Earlier, Puna said that during the pageant the Cook Islands had made history in front of a global audience of 2 billion people.
“The Cook Islands is the first Pacific Island ever to claim the Miss Oceania World title; it is the most syndicated pageant globally and the most respected pageant in the world.”
Puna said Sahay had promoted the country immensely, noting the “poe tiare” that she wore everywhere, “a small but most significant nod to her home”.
“Beauty pageants are now a business and politics is never far.
“Leaders from several countries who send representatives, regard pageantry as a global statement in itself. In the four years that we have participated, our small island nation has demonstrated that we can match it with the very best in the world. This historical accomplishment confirms that belief.”
Puna said the government looked forward to welcoming her home in January.