Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Big Cook Islands welcome ready for Clinton

Hillary Clinton. Photo / Simon Baker
Hillary Clinton. Photo / Simon Baker

It has taken some logistical contortions, and Hillary Clinton has had to shrink her entourage from 90 to 50 people, but the motorcades have practised and the ae'i (lei) are ready for the United States Secretary of State's arrival in the Cook Islands tonight.

Mrs Clinton will spend a night and a day in the Cook Islands - a leader of one of the world's biggest powers speaking with the leaders of some of the smallest, the 15 countries in the Pacific Islands Forum.

She will kick off the visit with breakfast at Trader Jacks - one of Rarotonga's well-known watering holes and eateries.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna said it would be an exciting visit. "Our people will be there in force to welcome her to the island. I'm excited, like all other Cook Islanders. This is history in the making."

He said he had advance warning that she was coming, to allow the necessary arrangements to be made, but there would be no special treatment.

Cook Islands police have asked all security staff with the international leaders to hand their firearms over at the border, and Mrs Clinton's are no exception. "We are a peace-loving people. There is no security risk," Mr Puna said.

The authorities had to borrow cars for the motorcades, and the practice runs along roads where the speed limit is usually 30km/h has upset some locals.

However, Rarotonga did not have to import extra flowers to make the ae'i as it had a bountiful source already. VIPs are usually laden with ae'i made from tiare maori - a scented white flower - and 'ei maire (green leaves), while frangipani are for ordinary people.

Mrs Clinton is the most senior representative of the United States to attend the forum in its 41-year history, but she will not get one of the honours bestowed on some at the forum - the grand entry on the pa'ata (platform) carried by warriors. Mr Puna said that was reserved for the 15 forum nation leaders.

"The United States is not a forum member, it is a dialogue partner, so maybe there might be some sensitivities in terms of extending that courtesy."

- NZ Herald

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