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Independent Te-Hani Brown has won a by-election in the Cook Islands.
The 22-year-old polled 78 votes in the Tengatangi Areora and Ngatiarua electorate, 33 ahead of the Democratic Party's Nandie Glassie.
The Cook Islands Party, which leads the government, has welcomed the win as Ms Brown had pledged to join their ranks ahead of the by-election.
Party-hopping rules had forced the by-election after Brown defected from the Democratic Party.
Her resignation from t is the second time she has won the seat, her first win earlier this year as an opposition democratic candidate almost triggered a hung parliament.
At the timeBrown said in the interest of stability she would prefer to join government and resigned her seat to recontest as an independent.
Speaking after her win, she thanked supporters for their belief in her and promised to do more for Cook Islands youth.
“None of this was possible without you all” said Tehani Brown, now Member of Parliament for Tengatangi Areora and Ngatiarua as she spoke at her rally in Atiu last weekend.
She thanked the people for their faith in her and reiterated again, "even when I said I wouldn’t promise you anything. I am grateful and you she said speaking to the people gathered, are the reason we were able to get a lot of good things started for our island."
“You all know I’m not one of many words and I speak when I need to because I believe actions and silence speak loudest. Plus, when you eventually do speak people will listen because they barely hear you speak. That’s my logic!"”
She says she has learnt so much in a short time, “I was pushed way out of my comfort zone, and found myself in a position where I could influence decisions in our country. Believe me when I say Parliament and Politics is not just for old people, because we young ones she encouraged the audience, have a lot of potential and we shouldn’t shy away from that responsibility.”
She said she saw this as a challenge, and she loves a challenge! “If you tell me I can’t do something it makes me want to do it even more, besides, I had nothing to lose so even if I didn’t win at the polls, at least I opened up a platform for other mapu to have the confidence to run for parliament.”
Commenting on when she first won the seat in Atiu, she said, “I’ll admit I didn’t think my opinion mattered - but I was wrong. We are all decision makers of our country and it just helps more if you are in government and able to fight for the needs of our people. People were worried that I was too quiet and that I didn’t know how to speak. But honestly, speaking in parliament is not even near as scary" she said to the packed audience, “as speaking here in public to you all, and again, a huge Meitaki ranuinui to all my supporters for giving me their opportunity.”
Brown said being in Parliament has been such an educational experience and almost like being in school again but this time with the big boys.
“Like I said during my first campaign rally, I didn’t want to be in politics, and I know people tried to say my parents forced me into this, but anyone who says that obviously doesn’t know me well enough. Yes, I’m only 22 and people say, what do I know? I’m only a kid. Trust me, there’s a million other things I could be doing right now. Enjoying my youth, accomplishing my goals. Politics was never part of my plan, but God has other plans for me and I still have goals that I have put on hold but I can’t say no to people that ask for help when I know I can help them.”
When talking about her plans for the Island of Atiu she said, “Look at all the youth that have left because they can’t make a living here. I want to change the mindset of our youth by showing them how to do better, instead of sitting here feeling sorry for themselves and jumping for the opportunity to go overseas. Life is not good there and the money may be good but life here is so much better speaking of the life to be had in Atiu, we just need to get up and work. We have been sitting around for too long, accepting and settling for what we get because we don’t believe in ourselves enough to see that WE are just as important and that we can improve our standard of living here.”
As she finished her speech she made this single plea to the people of Atiu, Our ancestors were warriors, and it is in our blood, but we should be using that energy from our ancestors to fight for what’s right. For our island. For a better future. Not to fight with each other. It’s time to wake up Enuamanu. At the end of the day we are all family and we are all from ONE ISLAND. The people of Tengatangi Areora Ngatiarua voted me in so it is up to them to vote me out. Not the critics.
Not the keyboard warriors on social media, not the Cook Islanders living overseas, not even the government, and not the Democratic party. If I have to go through another election to earn my seat back, then so be it. But I don’t want to ask you to vote for me she said, I will instead ask you to vote for who you think will drive Atiu to the best it can be. “Let’s all work together and fight for good things,” she concluded “and for Atiu and not against ourselves because if God is for us, who then can be against us?”
SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/ RADIO COOK ISLANDS /PACNEWS
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