Sunday, October 24
The Cook Islands constitution celebrations (Te Maeva Nui) commemorate the country attaining internal self government. We’re not actually independent, because New Zealand looks after such things as defence. I can only remember one instance of talk about ‘real independence’ and that was a smoke screen raised by politicians trying to draw attention away from a major economic meltdown caused by themselves.
Most Cook Islanders are very happy with the way things are. I think they regard New Zealand rather like an elder brother. I suspect New Zealand thinks of us like a spoilt child.
Anyway, that’s why we have a Constitution Day rather than an Independence Day but we all enjoy the public holiday and the dancing regardless of the name. It takes our minds off the current financial crisis, once again caused by politicians.
We’ve got an election coming up in mid-November, a chance to clean out the house.
Our parliamentary system is nominally the Westminster system in terms of elections but with our own Pacific flavour. Government members think it’s their job to take as many overseas trips as possible and rack up the per diems. The opposition’s job is to sit on their backsides and wait until the next election when they might be able to take over the trips. They don’t actually oppose anything (except political reform). There’s no ideological difference between the parties and nor does there need to be since the candidate with the biggest extended family is the one who’ll be elected.
This year we have 70 candidates standing for our 24 seats and two new political parties have been formed just for the election. They probably won’t get anywhere, they very rarely do, but what’s more interesting is the 16 independents. Some of these are disgruntled sitting MPs who have been dumped by their parties but others are interesting people with solid reputations. I hope lots of them get elected then maybe we’ll get some movement on reform.
Meanwhile, here’s a video of Te Maeva Nui. The population may be dwindling but culture is alive and well. Many local dance groups performed at the celebrations as guest artists and several of them had junior dancers ranging in age from toddler to primary school age.
These are the little ones from Korero Maori dance group.
(Don't forget, DVDs of the entire Te Maeva Nui festival are available from the Ministry of Cultural Development.)