GOVERNMENT OF THE COOK ISLANDS

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Office of the Prime Minister
Rarotonga, Cook Islands

MEDIA RELEASE 12 November 1998

COOK ISLANDS COMMISSION OF POLITICAL REVIEW RECOMMENDATIONS

In a formal presentation today, the Chairman of the Cook Islands Commission of Political Review, Mr. Iaveta Short, handed Acting Prime Minister Hon. Inatio Akaruru, CBE the Commission's recommendations, following an intensive three-month investigation.

In accepting the Report on behalf of Prime Minister Hon. Sir Geoffrey Henry, KBE, who is currently overseas visiting Japan and China, Mr. Akaruru said that Sir Geoffrey was briefed on the core recommendations and "deeply appreciates the integrity, thoroughness and professionalism by which the Commission undertook its assignment."

In an interview following the presentation, Chairman Short briefly highlighted his Commission's key recommendations. These included a reduction of the size of Parliament from 25 to 17 Members, including one from each outer island (9), four from the capital island of Rarotonga, four Members on a national basis and the abolishment of the existing overseas representation.

Selection of the Prime Minister will be made by Parliament as a whole, but only from those four of its Members elected on the national basis.

The Commission also proposes a preferential voting system modeled on that which has proven effective in Australia.

In down-sizing Parliament, the Commission also proposes a pay reduction from NZ$ 35,000 (US$ 18,823) to NZ$ 25,000 (US$ 13,445) with the further guidance that sessions be more intensive but shorter, i.e. "long hours, less days." In imitation of the Singapore model, this allows and encourages Members to have their own businesses and, as part-time Parliamentarians, spend more time in their own constituencies.

The Commission further recommended that there be a second such Commission of Political Review in 2005 or half way through the second term following the 1999 election.

In developing these recommendations, the Commission consulted widely in all of the Cook Islands and in New Zealand.

Mr. Short stated that they were primarily guided by four factors: principles of democracy; the unique situation of many widely separate islands; principles of effective and good governance; and, lastly the cost of governance.

Chairman Short noted that many of the changes recommended require amendments to the Constitution but that a 90 day waiting period is required between the second and third readings of the amending bills in Parliament. Therefore, if the changes are to be made before the 1999 election, the appropriate bills must be introduced soon and the first and second readings done within the next four weeks as Parliament must be dissolved by law no later than 24 March 1999 in preparation for the election.

Mr. Short expressed his confidence that the Commission's recommendations "have the support of the people and, if implemented, they will greatly improve our political system."

Mr. Akaruru assured the Commissioners that "Cabinet will indeed give the Report the attention it deserves and, also, will act expeditiously should legislation be appropriate."

He further noted that Cabinet had decided to release the entire Report to the public immediately and, further, that it would be tabled in Parliament next Monday, 16 November 1998.

For further information contact:

Mr. Temu Okotai, Chief of Staff, Office of the Prime Minister TEL (682) 25494 FAX: (682) 23792

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