Newly appointed Clerk of Parliament, Mr Tangata Vainerere along with the Parliamentary staff met with Army Colonel James G. McAden of the US Defence Attaché from Wellington, New Zealand; and Mr Ted Danowitz, Political and Economic Officer of the US Consulate Auckland Office 10am Tuesday 27th November 2018.   Colonel McAden and Mr Danowitz’s short visit to the Cook Islands Parliament started with a warm welcome by the Clerk and staff before discussions of the US Embassy Defense Attaché visit to the Cook Islands Parliament started and afterwards a parting gifts of pareu and ei pupu was accorded the two gentlemen to demonstrate to the visiting Defence Officials the true culture and heritage of the Cook Islands people in receiving visitors.

Parliamentary Staff with Army Colonel James G. McAden, US Defense Attaché from Wellington, New Zealand; and Mr Ted Danowitz, Political and Economic Officer of the US Consulate in Auckland

The milestone visit anticipated to bring a better understanding of the officials’ perspectives of the Cook Islands while exploring areas of potential future cooperation on regional security issues and capacity building, as well as gaining an appreciation of the Cook Islands people, culture and heritage end with a high note shared by the Defense Officials, Clerk and staff of Parliament over refreshments.

It is understood the US Defense Attaché Officials visit to Parliament brings closer and better understanding of the Parliament of the Cook Islands, with the aim to implement the US Strategy to have a Free and Open Pacific targets for a more cooperation than assistance in building and continuing greater partnerships in the Pacific parallel to Australia and New Zealand.   While the US acknowledges the presence of Australia and New Zealand as ‘good neighbours in the Pacific’, admits to have focus more on North East Asia in recent years, now wants to play an active role in the Pacific with closer partnership with Australia and New Zealand regarding regional securities to name a few.

Overwhelmed with the Clerk of Parliament’s entertaining nature, the Defense Officials were well entertained with a number of important and worth noting ideas while keeping the momentum of the visit to a more relaxed atmosphere than previously thought revealed that:

  • There is a program on Pacific Youth Program being coordinated in Auckland to provide young people opportunities for capacity building which MP Te-hani Brown, the youngest Member of Parliament in the world, can be exposed to for capacity building at the request of the Clerk;
  • They’ve been impressed and excited with the Cook Islands Police Patrol Boat for the outstanding job they’re doing and the services they deliver as ‘Best Practice’ to provide Health Officials use of the Police Patrol Boat to take medical supplies to the outer islands while also doing patrol work at the same time. This outreach program by the Police is not known to be adopted by other Pacific Islands and the US have a Navy Doctor who is coordinating medical outreach in the Pacific similar to what is being done by the Police Patrol will bring partnership opportunities for Doctors, Nurses, and Dentists to take services to the people in the Outer Islands.
  • They have also been impressed with the cyclone shelters built in the Outer Islands which they have an interests in the best designs, best practice and best ideas in building cyclone shelters across the Pacific.

The fruitful meeting was thoroughly enjoyed by the US Defense Attaché and staff of Parliament and everyone looking forward to their next visit especially with the visit of the US Ambassador planned for March 2019.

Author: Helen Maunga, Deputy Clerk