One of the key topics of discussion that took place during the Assembly meeting last Wednesday was on the Taoga Niue Annual Report for 2021/2022 and the use of the Vagahau Niue language especially in the fono ekepule.
One of the common sayings that has been reiterated through most of the fono ekepule meetings and in general is that the Vagahau Niue language is waving goodbye to us. A figure of speech portraying the reality that the use and speakers of the Vagahau Niue language is declining.
One of the core issues, or challenges and risks stated in the Taoga Niue Annual Report stated that public servants and government workers are still not adapting fast enough to the use of Vagahau Niue in the Public Service or the Government as a whole.
“Whilst we always tend to focus our attention on the younger population for not using our vagahau (speak, write and read), we are also at the core of the issue and most probably the culprits ourselves as parents for allowing it to happen in our homes.”
The report also stated that “the preferred language in the Heads of Department (HOD) Meetings is our second language, English and only a few numbers use vagahau. The same attitude is observed at many consultations where people in attendance (and those in leadership positions) have some understanding of our vulnerable situation but choose not to pay attention or make an effort to use Vagahau Niue.”
Members of Parliament expressed their concerns and views on the use and the lack of use of the Vagahau Niue language.
Lakepa MP John Tiakia was the first to point out, in regards to the Taoga Niue report, that Vagahau Niue should be used more prominently in meetings such as the fono ekepule and not English.
He emphasised the need for the Vagahau Niue language to coincide with what has been written in government in Vagahau Niue.
In her remarks to the use of Vagahau Niue, Common Roll Member Hon. O’love Jacobsen asked the question: has anything been done to connect with our people in New Zealand and Australia where the majority of the Niue population resides?
Hon. Jacobsen expressed her support in the use of the Vagahau Niue and English language equally.
While some Members of Parliament supported the notion expressed by the Lakepa MP and others to that of Common Roll Member Jacobsen, it is evident that English is used more prominently than Vagahau Niue on the island.
As clearly stated in the Taoga Niue annual report, “the number of Vagahau Niue speakers is declining…we must always bear in mind the saying ‘when a language dies, ecosystems often die with them’.”
MPs also expressed that there needs to be a proactive example in using Vagahau Niue in meetings rather than reiterating the phrase ‘Vagahau Niue is waving goodbye to us’.
Meanwhile, Acting Premier and Minister of Finance and Infrastructure Hon. Crossley Tatui last week informed the fono during his statement that there is no set dates for the 2023 Niue General Elections as of yet. However, it is most likely to take place in April.