Tokelau’s leader call to NZ: Trust us, our practising of self-government is on track!

2017Ulu150 7 March 2017

"As Ulu, I will not implement any project unless rigorous consultation of all key stakeholders has been undertaken. Any future planning will be done on Tokelau by Tokelau for Tokelau. How can planning and monitoring of government decisions be executed on another sovereignty?"

Four key highlights and full text of Ulu-o-Tokelau Siopili Perez’s keynote address at the opening of Tokelau’s Ninth General Fono (Parliament) yesterday. His key message centred around New Zealand’s Administrator for Tokelau, David Nicholson raising the issue of using the veto powers of the Administrator to take back the development fund delegation for all projects over $500,000.
  • an interim veto or re-devolving all the powers of the Administrator back to the Administrator that were delegated to the Taupulega, is a great step backwards in Tokelau’s constitutional development history. This is demoralising to the integrity of the Taupulega whose words contain consecrated mana.
  • the Fono will refocus its attention to define with more clarity the roles and responsibilities within the villages (Atafu, Fakaofo, Nukunonu) and the government
  • announced the establishment of a new government department by the end of 2017
  • any future planning will be done on Tokelau by Tokelau for Tokelau.

By Ulu o Tokelau, Aliki Faipule Siopili Perez
Delivered 6, March 2017, at Nukunonu, Tokelau.

Tulou kouluana te fale Aliki o te Faleagafulu
Tulou ki pou matua ma poukia
Tulou ki poulaga ma pale kaho
Aua e fakapouaka ai ia kupu o fenua
Kae poto ai foki mafaaga o aliki
Tulou!  Tulou!  Tulou lava! 

Tulou te pou fitu o fale aliki o te falefitu
Tulou kouluana te pou matua o te fale
I oulua tokaga tonuia ma lagimaina
Tonuia, ko koe he toa
Na kakau e koe ia atumoana e fia
Aua te ta kauafua pele ko atafu
Tulou o tokaga alo aliki tama tane,
Ma o alo aliki tama fafine
Tulou!  Tulou!  Tulou lava! 

Tulou te talafa o fale aliki o te falefa
Tulou kouluana te uluga talafau, letele, lua ma tuipagai
Tulou oulua piupiuga ma oulua tokaga
Tulou kouluana telima, mahu ma loga
Vena foki kouluana nonu ma alo
Tulou!  Tulou!  Tulou lava!

Reverend Fr Pio Galumalemana
Leaders of the different denominations of Tokelau
Elders and grey hairs of Tokelau
Hauatea delegations at the helm of our canoe
Administrator of Tokelau, David Nicholson and your staff
Chairperson of the General Fono
General Fono delegates
My colleagues and Council members
Tokelau Public Service Commissioner and your advisor
Tokelau public servants
Ladies and gentlemen

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the work of the outgoing Ulu and members of Council that formed the Council of the Ongoing Government of Tokelau and General Fono members from 2014 to 2016. Particularly those who are no longer with us today.

May I now begin my speech by recapturing the analogy I adapted from Tokelau oral culture in the beginning of my Uluship in 2015. I tried to bring home the message then, that we have to prepare ourselves well for better outcomes from any new changes in the spirit of working together.

“Tomorrow the wind direction will change to Te Fakatiu (the ill-will wind)
At the end of the island!
Tomorrow the wind will change direction to fakatiu
If you are caught in opposing and warring waves
May your canoe find solace from those warring waves
Should the o bait come close to the reef,
Hold stern to your most auspicious lure
Because, if the lure breaks who made it?
If the lure disengages whose idea was it?

The question is then: What developments have been achieved in the last 3 years?

I believe the Taupulega and the villages themselves have the answers whether the developments if any were achieved in flying colours or were they subject to the many challenges of the reality of Tokelau?

May I reiterate!

If the lure broke who mended it? If the lure became disengaged who restored it?

Need I therefore say “malo ni” to the Taupulega for developing and maintaining the uniqueness of our villages.

I do not wish to dwell too much on the developments and problems of yester years. There will be a time when the fono will refocus its attention to defining with more clarity our roles and responsiblities within the villages and government.

I use the analogy of manning the Tokelau canoe.

Each of the five seats of the canoe have their own specific departmentalised roles and responsiblities from the front, to the helm of the canoe which is restricted to the master fisherman only. Similarly, if the roles and responsibilities in our nation building exercise are not well-defined with clarity, this is a formula for failure.

Rather, I will throw light on the outstanding programmes that we will work towards achieving in 2017.

Very high in our development aspirations I can say that without funding, there can be no forms of development.

Without development, there will be no improvements to our quality of life. Without a public service we will never be able to measure the extent of what work we are doing.

Our efforts will be in vain.

Through the Administrator of Tokelau, I would like to thank the government of New Zealand and foreign affairs minister McCully for the continous support provided in terms of their obligations for Tokelau’s foreign relations and national security. In particular the ongoing warm working relationship between New Zealand and Tokelau in meeting Tokelau’s development needs.

I would also use this opportunity to welcome Mr David Nicholson to his first General Fono in his capacity as Administrator of Tokelau. He is also the New Zealand High Commissioner for Samoa. We wish you all the best and look forward to having a close working relation with you.

Tokelau’s biggest revenue comes from its exclusive economic zone. Hence Tokelau has placed high priority in establishing a new government department by the end of 2017 to be called the Department of Fisheries with the primary objective of maximising revenue from Tokelau’s offshore fisheries.

Minister McCully once stated that fisheries is of high importance to New Zealand interests in the Pacific. In recent years New Zealand has assisted in fisheries management, capacity building in Tuvalu, Solomon Islands and Cook Islands.

Mr Administrator of Tokelau, we seek your active support to assist us in accessing financial resources and expertise from NZ AID and Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) respectively for this significant programme for the development of our fishing zone.

Administrator in your recent visit to the Taupulega you raised the issue of using the vetoing powers of the Administrator to take back the development fund delegation for all projects over $500,000 in the interim. The administrator’s administrative and legislative powers were delegated to the General Fono in 1996 and amended in 2004 to be re-delegated to the Taupulega, General Fono and Council respectively.

The first question that springs to mind is that, “what has the Taupulega done wrong to deserve this interim veto arrangement?”
It is also worth noting that in the 1996 legal delegation from the Administrator which again was amended in 2004, both parties should be on the same level of understanding and agreement on why a veto would take place.

Hence to identify who, what or where the root cause of the problem arose from so that Tokelau can learn from its mistake in terms of exercising this delegation which is vested in the Taupulega.

This is demoralising to the integrity of the Taupulega whose words contain consecrated mana.

Again I use the analogy of one of Tokelau’s traditional warriors, Fafie’s words of anger after realising that the canoe has gone way off course:
Who is at the helm of the canoe?
Who appointed futa to take the helm?
Nota and nota have become Oceans apart
Fuiono and Fuiono could hardly be seen
Fiji’s coastal water is beneath us
You have yet to catch a bird with a net
Your lips have not been ripped apart by the sting of Te ufu taia.

In contextualising this analogy it points to those who skip canoe seats and are unqualified to take the helm. It illustrates inexperiece and incompetency in keeping to the course of Tokelau’s journey that was wisely set by our ancestors. It is worth noting that the General Fono and former Administrators spent long hours of deliberations back in 1996 and later 2004 in order to get this delegation right, thus for Tokelau to reach this milestone step.

Mr Administrator please note: Whether this is an interim veto or a re-devolvement of all powers of the Administrator that were delegated to the Taupulega, I see this as a great step backwards in Tokelau’s constitutional development history.

It stems from an ambition for quick-fix solutions on the part of the culprit. I alluded to the huge negative impacts of quick-fix solutions in my maiden speech in 2015 that a quick-fix approach is not only unsustainable but also represents the complete abandonment of responsibility and pure arrogance.

Tokelau has a development plan in place. As Ulu, I will not implement any project unless rigorous consultation of all key stakeholders has been undertaken.

Any future planning will be done on Tokelau by Tokelau for Tokelau. How realistic are we in our nation building exercise if planning and monitoring of government decisions are executed on another sovereignty? Tokelau’s challenges will never be understood by regional and international development agencies, let alone New Zealand if we do not all walk our talk on Tokelau soils.

It is now 30 years since the issue of bringing home our public servants from Apia has been sung. Some of our fore-fathers who developed this song have since passed away. I am proud therefore to say that all government services will be relocated to Tokelau by the end of 2017. The General Fono has instated the Tokelau Public Service Commission to oversee the smooth transfer of all services to Tokelau in the given time frame. The TPS commision will present its plan to the General Fono on how this will be executed.

In my term as Ulu-o-Tokelau, I will realign the Ulu’s responsibilities with the foundations of our nation. As well as a public figure, the Ulu is the arms, legs and voice of the Taupulega and national government in foreign relation matters and reporting reqularly to the Taupulega, general fono and council on all overseas engagements.

I wish to emphasise that I will not make any decision or decisions alone that demarcates the nation from its foundations. Nor do I have any wish to cause any surprises on key developments without consulting the Taupulega and my colleagues in Council. By May this year, I will present to the Taupulega Tokelau’s voice to the United Nations Committee of 24 of the status of Tokelau’s constitutional development.

There is a slight delay in launching Tokelau’s mobile service due to unforeseen circumstances. The minister of telecommunication had hoped to launch it during this Fono sitting. However, Tokelau will open a new chapter of its communication developments in the very near future.

Discussion has begun on other key developments like the ship to shore and shipping. My humble plea to the nation is to start small and be simple in our developments to ensure that they are done with good and positive outcomes.

Last but not least I would like to acknowledge the genuine work of our national and nuku public services for carrying out their duties and responsibilities. Keep the paddles working for Tokelau’s development.

Tomorrow the winds will change direction. Today, I now declare the general fono open.

May Tokelau live on.

See also: "Tokelau installs Siopili Perez as Ulu", Radio New Zealand, 7 March 2017: