Alarm bells ringing for Koutu Nui

Tuesday February 20, 2018 Published in Letters to the Editor

I note that the Koutu Nui are concerned about the increasing numbers of foreign workers coming into the country who aspire to permanent residency.


Whoever did the maths relating to the “are close to overtaking the local indigenous population” statement needs to go back to school, as this is just plain scare tactics. Simple maths tells us if there are approximately 2000 migrant workers and the population is around 18,000, that is about 10 per cent.

And that 10 per cent is probably helping to produce more than 50 per cent of the revenue in this country – that’s what you should be talking about.

In reading the Feb 14 comments in CINews I couldn’t help but think that the horse has already bolted and the present government has no stomach or appetite to turn back the clock. Why would or should they? The House of Ariki and the Koutu Nui are those bodies of traditional leaders who were sold a sow’s ear for a silk purse of lore in 1966.

The traditional leaders have become no more than living relics of a bygone era, relegated to the status of dial-a-leader. Increasingly there appears to be no enthusiasm or forethought as to the role they could or should be playing in a modern Cook Islands Society.

The Cook Islands Party under the leadership of Albert Henry was instrumental in 1965 in putting together a party manifesto that would return the traditional leaders to some semblance of their past glory.

Initially, to gain their support, Henry and others sold the Ariki on the idea of having a ‘royal’ house, much like royalty in the UK, and this appealed to their overinflated idea about themselves and their place in a modern Cook Islands Society. They were so gullible and naive to think that any sane democracy would entertain the idea of sharing power with a bunch of historical anachronisms.

Most Ariki were not that well-educated in political intrigue, but those who were tried to thwart Albert Henry at every turn. Alas, it was too little, too late – the rikiriki parliamentarians of the CIP were shrewd operators and had no intention of returning the Ariki to their past glory, as this would have curtailed their own ambitions.

I submit that the Ariki were not in any position to be returning themselves to past glories. Too much time had passed – Cook Islanders were no longer the subservient subjects of the past.

Eventually the Ui Ariki were ostracised, and to add insult to injury they had lost control of their heritage and their ability to be part of the decision-making processes for the Cook Islands.

The Ariki were effectively shut out of committee meetings, serving on boards, serving on island councils – and why not, they already had a House of Ariki.

It took a while for the Ariki to realise that they were toothless and powerless in their own country, and despite some resistance at first they had very little stamina or stomach to fight the government.

Further insult was added by the Henry-led government with the passing of the Koutu Nui amendment to the House of Ariki Act in 1972. Effectively this Act gave the lesser traditional leaders the right by law to their own House, in effect displacing the mana of the Ui Ariki rather than complementing them, and this went further towards destabilising the Mana Ui Ariki.

It also infuriated the Ui Ariki – if you can, imagine a situation in which an older brother and a younger brother are set against each other. The government treats with either if it cannot get its way with one of the brothers. This is how you undermine and negate the influence of someone who won’t follow your wishes.

What do you do if you are Ui Ariki and you’re between a rock and a hard place? The challenge is that 130 years of talking and taking the wrong options has gotten the traditional leaders nowhere.

Governments have come and gone, encouraging noises have been made, traditional leaders have been promised that their concerns will be addressed, and the end result is more of the same – nothing.

Now it would seem that Allsworth and his compatriot traditional leaders wish to set up a nation divided along the lines of citizenship status. This is against our constitution and would seem to me to be highly discriminatory – not only locally, but internationally under our treaties.

You are in effect saying you can be a citizen with strings attached but not have the full rights of a Cook Island citizen. This is not right in anyone’s language.

In addition, there is no need for a traditional leader to sit on the BTIB Board, except in an ex-officio position and this should be taken as a grain of salt, of no consequence. I agree that BTIB’s decisions should not be overturned indiscriminately by the minister, as this smacks of political interference. If there is merit in the argument for or against the decision then use a robust appeal process which has the final say.

I do agree with the premise that traditional knowledge and culture must be a part of the education system. But this cultural renaissance must be an agreed process by all Cook Islanders, and not just those from Culture and Education who have their own particular spin on what this means.

            The Unionist

            (Name and address supplied)

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