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The Contemporary Pacific 13.1 (2001) 255-258

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Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1 July 1999 to 30 June 2000

A Green Paper titled Tokelau Public Service: To Preserve by Changing (SSC 1999), presented to the General Fono in June 1999, proposed several models for changes in the public service. Its major outcome was the promotion of the Modern House of Tokelau project (MHT). The Modern House of Tokelau concept dates back to 1997 and 1998, when the Tokelau elected leadership expressed a wish to "return to the villages" as the main centers of governance and administration. The localization of all human and physical resources would be included, as well as management and administrative structures. Promoted as "the reconstructed house of Tokelau," the project is envisaged to encompass all institutions and agencies, including those previously considered "independent," making them accountable to the Tokelau leadership.

Leading on from the "posts" identified in 1998, the year 2000 saw commitment and efforts by Tokelau's leadership to continue with the building of this modern house. The New Zealand government representatives in these deliberations also expressed their nation's commitment to providing additional resources specifically for this project. These assurances renewed Tokelau's focus on the project and the drive toward achieving its objectives. The project became the subject of a number of discussions between Tokelau Public Service Commissioner Aleki Silao, and members of the Council of Faipule--consisting of three elected government officials representing three villages--which is the executive arm of government. [End Page 255]

The key issue in these discussions was how to support the Tokelau leadership in the process of achieving the project. Among the issues explored was the need to bring together all the desired skills and experience from the atolls, as well as from Tokelauans overseas, with the aim of assisting the leadership in their decision making about Tokelau's future. The guiding principles envisioned for this support were "partnership" and "leadership."

The interrelated topics discussed in the meetings centered on three general concerns. First, effective leadership and representation were considered vital aspects of the project in that they would help steer a course toward the establishment of a solid foundation for the Modern House of Tokelau. Second, the leaders saw a need to formulate a long-term development plan that would take into account the issues considered major barriers to Tokelau's progress. It would include reviews of the strengths and weaknesses, as well as perceived threats, of current Tokelau governance and administrative structures. Third was the need to look at investment, capacity building, and development of infrastructure.

As a result of these deliberations a proposal was made for a two-team approach to MHT issues; the first team would maintain the current operations of the Tokelau Public Service, and the second would be a transition team to develop a strategic framework to highlight how the project would progress. Options were then considered on how to proceed with the MHT project at a pace determined by the leaders of Tokelau. Public Service Commissioner Aleki Silao prepared a summary of the preliminary discussions for the Council of Faipule (Silao 2000a). It proposed two options for the Council of Faipule and the three Pulenuku (elected village mayors) to debate before the June sitting of the General Fono. The first option was for the three Faipule and the three Pulenuku to visit all three Taupulega (village councils). The second was for each village council and Faipule to discuss the proposal among themselves with the assistance of the public service commissioner. With each option, the objective was to reach consensus on the merits of the proposed project.

The Council of Faipule chose the first option and, with the availability of the mv Tokelau, the Faipule and Pulenuku visited and held discussions with the three village councils. All endorsed the proposed project and expressed full support for it, noting that past leaders also shared this dream. Despite the consensus, the village councils advised a "make haste slowly" approach. The elders predicted rough seas ahead and cautioned that Tokelau must proceed with care. The tasks relating to the project...