NEW COOK ISLANDS DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, AND SIR GEOFFREY HENRY RETURNS TO

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CABINET

By Florence Syme-Buchanan

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (November 10, 1999 – Cook Islands News)---Prime Minister Dr. Joe Williams has appointed a new deputy and two new Cabinet ministers.

That happened yesterday - seven days before Parliament resumes on November 17 and a vote of no confidence in Dr. Williams' leadership is to be tabled by the Opposition Demo Alliance/New Alliance coalition.

Tourism Minister Tupou Faireka gets the job of Deputy Prime Minister. The two new Cabinet ministers are Sir Geoffrey Henry with Justice and the Education portfolio is now held by Teina Bishop.

The PM said it was necessary to have a complete Cabinet to "effect the transition of a full Cabinet to a shadow Cabinet" - the latter being a Cabinet formed by the Opposition in anticipation of a possible government change-over come November 17.

And in appointing Deputy Prime Minister Faireka, Williams said he had to look to the future and appoint somebody likely to be leading the country in 10 to 15 years time.

At a press conference yesterday afternoon, Dr. Williams talked of a first meeting with the Opposition shadow Cabinet and a decision being made there would be consultations between both sides and Heads of Ministries.

CONSULTATIONS

These consultations are expected to take place at the Rarotongan Hotel next Monday. However, Dr. Terepai Maoate told Cook Islands News that if the Prime Minister "is not going to step down to go along with the theme of smooth transition, we have no intention of attending the meeting."

Maoate said appointing two new Cabinet ministers at this time is "tantamount to an abuse of the civil list and public funds."

The new appointments will collect full DPM and ministerial salaries over the next week.

If they lose their posts through a change of government on the 17th, all three will continue to collect their new salaries for the following three months.

Cook Islands News understands Sir Geoffrey Henry has been collecting a Minister's salary ever since his resignation from Cabinet on July 28.

DISSOLVE

Dr. Williams during the press conference denied advising the Queen's Representative Sir Apenera Short to dissolve Parliament yesterday, which would set the wheels in motion for another a general election.

However, a coalition team led by Dr. Maoate was at the QR's residence yesterday shortly after Sir Geoffrey and Bishop had been sworn in to find out if the QR had accepted any advice to dissolve Parliament.

"He assured us everything must go to Parliament. He did say if anything happens, he will seek the advice of Crown Law," Maoate said of the QR.

HOUSE OF ARIKI

Meanwhile, the House of Ariki has issued a press statement in response to a request from the Prime Minister "to throw their weight behind Dr Williams' call for a general election..."

The House of Ariki "has resolved not to become involved in what was seen as, essentially, a matter for the Queen's Representative and the country's politicians."

Paramount chiefs believe with "well established constitutional conventions, a vote of confidence in Parliament could be expected to end the current leadership crisis."

TRANSITIONAL

Justice Minister Sir Geoffrey Henry told yesterday's press conference that the business of government "is not something that can be put aside because of transitional arrangements.

"You can't simply hold off the appointment to ministerial positions simply because something might happen a week later that could alter the whole situation. Government work continues day in, day out."

Sir Geoff said it would be unfair of anyone, including the leader of the Opposition, to expect the Prime Minister to fulfill his duties and those of two other ministers.

"What Teina and I are doing is helping the prime minister out, together with those other colleagues in Cabinet, to make sure the business of governance and the business of running this country, is kept afoot and not held up simply because some people suppose an event will occur on the 17th."

Finance Minister Papamama Pokino was absent from yesterday's press conference including the meeting between Cabinet and the Opposition's line-up.

Minister for Outer Islands Development Tepure Tapaitau was also absent from the press conference.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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