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By Craig DeSilva

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (December 15, 1999 - Radio New Zealand/PIDP/CPIS)---The Cook Islands government is defending the dismissal of several public servants on political grounds.

Last week the former head of media and information services in the Prime Minister’s department, Elma MaUa, said she and others had been removed to make way for political appointees. But government spokesman Wilkie Rasmussen says many senior public servants who worked for the former Cook Islands Party government had their own political allegiances.

"Some of those people who were employed had shown their loyalty towards the Cook Islands Party in terms of their party political affiliation," Rasmussen said. "It would be quite risky for this current government to retain them as members of the staff."

Rasmussen said the new government couldn’t run the risk of having private government information leaked.

"One incidence that took place when we first entered into government was the leakage of cabinet minutes so quickly," he said. "That took about two weeks for us to recoup and to find out how those minutes leaked. Some kind of finger pointing was made toward some of those former staff members."

(For background, see: Sacked Cook Islands Government Media Director Elma MaUa Seeks Legal Advice)

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