Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Lei your Local: Pacific people are not (April) fools.

If you work in the Tertiary Sector and are a member of the Tertiary Education Union, you may have heard of the Komiti Pasifika's (the Pasifika branch of the TEU), latest campaign which is Lei your local MP. The idea is to give your local MP a lei (garland of flowers for the non speakers) and to take a photo with the MP and upload it to Facebook...... Not particularly sure where the Komiti Pasifika were going with this one. You'd be forgiven for assuming this campaign was part of April fools - it was actually revealed a few weeks before today.

I am extremely puzzled that in the face of the lowest levels of government funding in tertiary education, growing debt, growing income inequality, ever increasing fees, the ever progressing commercialisation and commodification of education in this country and, the latest move to remove student and staff representation on University councils, and teacher representation on the Teacher's council, that the Komiti Pasifika has responded with the Lei Your Local MP campaign..... 

A complete contrast to the many other progressive campaigns coming out of the TEU. Yes I know we as Pacific peoples operate differently but really? Is this all we have to offer? Has our critical capacity and ability as Pacific people to be able to respond to issues of national significance really been limited to this?

You really have to wonder sometimes. In the weekend I attended a function held by the Samoa Business Network Incorporated where one Peseta Sam Lotu Iiga, National MP for Maugakiekie and Minister for Pacific Island Affairs (outside of Cabinet) was guest speaker. I do have to say that I am the current secretary for the association and must make clear that in no way does this piece represent the views of the Samoa Business Network and that I hereby solemnly declare that these are my own individual words and thoughts lol. Just me Tim Baice. Pulili. Pheeeewww

Any-who, Peseta was invited to speak to members of the SBN to encourage them in their trade and to share elements of his life/ career journey to help inspire members. Or at least this is what I understand the brief to have been. What transpired in reality was nothing short of what you would expect from a politician during election year. 

Peseta spent a considerable amount of time talking about his vision for Pacific communities in NZ, which although was admirable and are commonly what most of us would like to see (greater achievement in education, greater employment opportunities and enhanced health and life outcomes for our people) it was his lauding of National government policy in education and business as the means to which this has been somewhat already achieved (although he noted there was still a long way to go) that made me feel slightly nauseous.

Clear from Peseta's talk was that National did not have all the answers, nor did they have all the resources at hand, and while he welcomed feedback and discussion and advice from the community, he was clear that National could not guarantee they could do everything. This was strategic in the sense, that he had himself had set the tone by talking about national standards, greater ECE participation followed by the talk about the great vision e.t.c, to which the audience fervently responded to, almost as a technique to subtly quash any major questioning into National's furors into our education system, part of a carefully crafted technique (most likely developed by the party's well paid PR team) designed to almost neutralize and stifle any critical or in-depth commentary and interrogation, whilst at the same time appearing to offer a genuine opportunity for 'robust discussion and community engagement and feedback'. 

I share the Minister's vision for our communities and people but wondered if he'd ever considered there are alternative ways to achieving this, and that the current direction of National Policy on the whole (when you put all the pieces of the policy- puzzle together) has done and is doing more damage then good. 

My next post will be devoted to highlighting concerns from my perspective, which affect members of our vast Pacific community. In the lead up to the election, the only leis we should be giving to our local MP's, and especially those in the current government, are ones that seek to hold them accountable for their actions, or in this case inaction. Change will only ever come about if we change ourselves.

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.” 

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