Sunday, October 26

Paddling and politics

There was frantic activity at the vaka site on Saturday morning as carvers added the finishing touches to their canoes in readiness for launching in the afternoon.
In fact only eight of the ten or twelve vaka were in a suitable state for the water but the launch had to take place so that the Treks in a Wild World film crew could get their footage. TIAWW is a British TV series ‘full of adventure as … intrepid trekkers travel to far flung regions to embark on journeys combining ecology and history with action sports and outdoor pursuits’ or so the publicity blurb assures as. The team’s had good weather and has been to Mitiaro and Aitutaki as well as Rarotonga so the final programme should be a good advert for the country. I hope we get to see it some time.
The carving will now continue until the other canoes are finished and the decorations have been completed.
The launch took place at Avarua harbour, alongside Trader Jacks. It was a lot of fun with some mercifully short speeches followed by a traditional blessing. Then the canoes were carried down the slipway, closely followed by the film crew. The canoes paddled out a couple of hundred metres while the film crew hopped aboard a boat and motored after them to film the race back. It wasn’t really a race because the vaka were different sizes and had different numbers of paddlers but that didn’t matter. It all helps take people’s minds off politics.
Recent events on the political front include the Demo party (the guys in power) announcing that they were abolishing one electorate on Mangaia and claiming that they were therefore champions of political reform. Mangaia has a population of about 600 (and dropping) and three electorates. Common sense would suggest that one seat is more than enough. A similar situation exists for Atiu with two seats. The 1998 report of the political review commission suggested major changes to the entire political system in the Cook Islands. Politicians at that time had a vote of no-confidence in the commissioners and have since ignored the report except at election time when both parties say they will reform the system if elected. Needless to say, neither makes any attempt to do so. The vice-president of the (opposition) Cook Islands Party reckons that it was just a ploy to distract attention from the Demos’ internal problems. There are certainly plenty of these with the PM Jim Marurai saying he’s having trouble holding the party together, followed by the PM and deputy PM, Sir Terepai Maoate issuing an unconvincing statement saying everything is sweetness and light and cabinet minister Wilkie Rasmussen saying both of them should go before the next election. Read all about it in Cook Islands News .