The latest sitting of the island’s elected representatives was an easy cruise – by midday, it was all over for the 12 members present. Eight members of the 20-member House were absent overseas including all 5 women members who are attending a gathering of women parliamentarians. The Hon Dalton Tagelagi is on official business and Assemblymen Michael Jackson and Stan Kalauni are in Auckland for a family bereavement.
Member says Smoking is a Taoga
Veteran politician Jack Willie Lipitoa is seen by most as a steadying influence in House. So when the debate-o-meter of Niue Assembly is in danger of hitting the red zone, Jack can usually be relied upon to call on his extensive knowledge of the atoll to try and calm things down. At the latest sitting of the Assembly, the honourable member caused something of a ruckus when he told members that he considered smoking tobacco as part of the island’s taoga (heritage). The somewhat astonishing revelation was made when the House was debating an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act. The amendment was to address the fact that the Act had not included the prohibition of substances that can be used for the manufacture of drugs.
Assemblyman Lipitoa had asked the Minister, who is the Premier, if tobacco was to be included in the list of prohibited substances. When he was given an assurance that it was not, the assemblyman then decided to take the House down memory lane. He told members that they should be mindful of the fact that smoking is part of the island’s history dating back to the time when Palagi traders first brought twist-tobacco ashore.
“There was even a song composed about tobacco”, he said. “There were many people who told me to stop smoking. Well they’re all gone now and I’m still here”.
Meanwhile, back on the main debate, Assemblyman Puletama of Makefu raised the question of someone bringing in a prohibited substance for medical purposes – reference to medical marijuana. Member Terry Coe said the amendments did not go far enough and claimed that there is already a presence of drugs on the island. “People should be rewarded for reporting anyone in possession of or using drugs”, Coe said. He also suggested that government should consider bringing in trained dogs to be used at the airport. He called for tougher penalties for offenders.
Premier Talagi told members that Niue is fortunate that there is really only major port of embarkation for visitors – Auckland. He has asked for New Zealand’s assistance to help prevent drugs from coming to the island.
The amendment to the legislation has now gone to the Bills Committee for an in-depth assessment.
Is it Tulaki for Drugs or Tulaki for Trucks?
The issue of finding the proper word or words in Vagahau Niue for a palagi word surfaced at the debate on the amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act. And it’s all to do with the word ‘drugs’. What is the proper Vagahau equivalent? Some are using ‘tulaki’, which is a transliteration of ‘drugs’. That same word is now commonly used for ‘truck’, another transliteration. Members generally agreed that there needs to be more discussion with the island’s Vagahau experts so that there is a clear understanding of the appropriate word or words to be used.
Summary from the Premier
Roading. The roading programme is going according to plan. The next phase which is currently underway is the work from Makefu to Mutalau. The work will then shift to the south from Avatele to Vaiea and Hakupu. The Premier thanked the work team involved under the charge of Lapoisi.
Significantly, Sir Toke made no mention of the Chinese involvement. Talaniue’s sources say that an advanced party of two have arrived on the island, one to work on the final plan while the other will look at the logistics.
NZ-Niue Talks. Sir Toke advised members that in the coming weeks, there is to be a meeting with a NZ Minister to look at the future programme of assistance. After riding his usual hobby-horse of we-know-Niue-better than anyone from NZ, the Premier hopped off long enough to tell the Assembly and the island that he is expecting some meaningful discussion on a properly planned and coordinated assistance from the Beehive in Wellington. For the foreseeable future, the island will be looking at the construction of a new Fale Fono, more equipment for the wharf and the replacement of some assets. Premier warned that, like all good plans, it will take time. He touched on the construction underway of the Joint Emergency Operations Centre, a cooperative effort between Niue, the European Union, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the NZ Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management. Australia is also expected to build premises to house its representative on the island.
After three attempts, Niue was finally accepted by the Asian Development Bank. “Government is not just looking at funding but also engaging specialists in areas where we need help”, Premier Talagi said.
Establishing diplomatic relations with countries other than New Zealand and Australia, the Premier told the Assembly, has resulted in close to $1m in funding assistance for the island.
Sir Toke ended his summary by advising the Assembly that he will be returning to New Zealand on Friday for a follow-up medical treatment. “It’s my foot that is giving me problems; nothing wrong with my brain”, he concluded.