Jacinda Ardern arrives at Nausori Airport this evening riding a wave of popularity internationally and at home
One of the New Zealand Prime Minister’s prominent engagements in her first official visit to the country is to visit the Lautoka Jame Masjid Mosque on Thursday morning and attend a commemoration of the almost one year of the Christchurch Mosque massacre, which killed 51 people and injured many, including three Fijians.
Amid the unprecedented shock, pain and suffering, Ms Ardern galvanised the nation with the famous words, referring to the victims, “they are us”. But she said, “the person who perpetuated this unprecedented violence against us is not.”
She said this was one of New Zealand’s darkest days.
It’s her personal touch and show of compassion that has endeared her to Kiwis and members of the international community.
She also introduced new gun laws to tighten the rules of owning guns. She said the old gun laws dating back to 1983 were too weak. The speed in the Bill was passed by Parliament showed she was serious and meant business, unlike the slow progress to change gun laws in the United States.
In recognition of her leadership, she appears on the cover of Time magazine ahead of the anniversary of the mosque shooting.
The Guardian says after the terror event, “Ardern donned a hijab and spoke out forcefully against racism and division, repeating the phrase: ‘They are us’, which began a catch cry of solidarity with the country’s Muslim community.”
Time features the quote “Know us by our deeds” taken from her recent address at the Big Gay Out, an LGBT festival she has attended for more than a decade, while the headline pointedly asks: “Jacinda Ardern Has the World’s Attention. How Will She Use It?”
Author Belinda Luscombe describes Ms Ardern in Time profile as a “millennial woman”. She says Ms Ardern’s real gift is her ability to articulate a form of leadership that embodies strength and sanity, while also pushing an agenda of compassion and community”. She adds Ms Ardern has infused New Zealand with a kind of “soft power” and doesn’t have to request meetings with world leaders anymore, they are now lining up to be associated with her. Ms Ardern’s “challenge is to prove this new style of leadership can get meaningful results.”
On September 19, New Zealand goes to the poll and pollsters there are saying it will be tight. Ms Ardern’s Labour Party’s coalition partner, New Zealand First, is at the moment bogged down with controversy over party donations. How that will play out remains to be seen.
She is expected to return for a second term given New Zealand’s poll history. No Government has been in power for only one term. People would probably want to see more of her because the first term is not enough to judge her performance.
Among Her Notable Achievements Are:
Climate change – The zero-carbon Bill;
Banning of Plastic bags;
Sexual and domestic violence laws;
Education: New Zealand history and climate change
Action on refugees.
Her negative is reports about rising tide of homelessness and people sleeping in cars.
Her flagship KiwiBuild policy – a plan to build 100,000 new houses in 10 years – has failed to generate the number of new houses the Government promised. It has now been reset.
She will be hoping that her Fiji visit will help strengthen her campaign particularly on the climate change front.
Her relationship with Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama is warm and they get on extremely well on climate change, one of her strong points.
In their bilateral talks, the two leaders are expected to discuss, among other issues:
Aid programmes in the region
Defence co-operation which is stronger
Strengthening our democratic institutions
Ms Ardern will be accompanied by her partner, Clarke Gayford, who produces a popular television fishing programme. But they will be coming without their daughter Neve. The Ardern family grabbed headlines when they attended a Peace Summit at the United Nations in New York one year ago. When she took the stage and spoke, her partner and baby Neve were there listening.