He was quoting the late US president John F Kennedy, who at the time he said those words, was appealing to the nationalistic sentiments of the American people regarding sacrifices for their country. Why the DPM chose this saying is baffling, unless of course it is an admission that his government is in serious trouble in its own closed “internal poll.” I don’t mean they have actually run an actual poll say by randomly phoning people and asking; “How popular is the Cook Islands Party government,” but in their own circles of discussions, the topic must have been of grave concern to the DPM and probably prime minister Henry Puna, all cabinet ministers and the CIP executives.
I was at lunch with friends last Friday and one of them, a real grassroots guy who earns his keep from his music, predicted the CIP would lose at the next elections whether snap or full term, because the government has become so unpopular with the voters.
The other two mates, who are my beacons of public conscience, agreed with him. I sat on the fence and explored with them the viability of the opposition. I said that if it does not step up, the CIP may win again but by default, as it probably did in 2014. Either I am too clinical in my outlook or these guys have a better ear to the ground than I do and somehow the DPM echoed my friend’s views.
So if you multiply three to one out of our four, with three saying this government has a serious disconnect with the public of the Cook Islands, then Henry Puna’s government will definitely lose at the next elections.
Early in his political career as a minister, Teariki Heather came across as an “action man,” a practical man who set about doing things instead of wasting time talking or even thinking about consequences.
But that tag was soon lost by Heather and was assumed by his former best sidekick, none other than that the imitable George Maggie, MP for Tupapa. The DPM became a much more reserved person: so much so that one can only assume his outlook changed because he was hurt when he had insufficient support to challenge Henry Puna for the CIP leadership. I know for a fact, he cultivated the support of the Penrhyn MP Willie John who betrayed Heather and voted for Henry Puna. The DPM also displayed a sort of “not toeing the line” attitude, to Henry Puna, but when it came to the crunch, he certainly knew who would pay for his “freebie” trip to Guam along with his closest ally, Amuri MP Toa Isamaela.
One thing, however, was very clear about the DPM. He is an autocratic man and like the way he “militarises” his workers at TNM Heather, that’s how he sees the public service or even members of the public.
Of course, it is none of his business or cabinet’s for that matter if a public servant does not attend the flag-raising ceremony on August 4 each year. The day is a statutory holiday and so it is for everyone. A CI News smoke signaller summed up a response from those public servants when he or she basically told the DPM, “mind your own business.” In fact that message went further and retorted that the DPM and government should sort their own mess first instead of threatening public servants with some sort of government action. I hope you are following me: It is this the DPM’s very autocratic nature that explains why he chose the “it is not what your country will do for you but what you can do for your country,” quote. He has a mindset of controlling people. Of course, we know he does this with his own workers. For instance, several lost their jobs when they did not vote for him in the 2014 elections. He actually applies the same principle when he is out campaigning. He uses government resources and his authority as a minister and basically corners everyone into submission and drives it into them what his government can do – either good or threatening. In other words, he is a bully in politics and expects adulation and exultation, as he did with setting up the welcome ceremony for him into the auditorium on Constitution Day. He preys on the “pride of Tinomana – Ariki (Chief) of Puaikura” and turns people’s duty to the traditional title and village into a political payoff for himself.
Henry Puna is also very good in that sort of manipulation of people, traditions and loyalties. Both he and Heather are good at making one feel guilty for not taking part. They do the same in government, in parliament and in the public service. Of course if you are an ordinary public servant and do not do what is expected for you, you can be justified in being scared or anxious about your future.
Lastly, let me say this: the state and politicians are paid for by tax collected from workers, businesses and consumers in the case of VAT. Therefore, it would be much more appropriate if every Cook Islander said to the DPM: “It is what you do for the country and for me and my family and children that matters most.”