NORMAN GEORGE SACKED AS COOK ISLANDS DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

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ALOFI, Niue (July 29, 2001 - Niue Economic Review/PINA Nius Online)--- Cook Islands Deputy Prime Minister Norman George has been sacked, according to reports from Rarotonga.

This follows revelations several weeks ago that an attempt to overthrow the Prime Minister, 66-year-old medical doctor Terepai Maoate, was being organized.

At that time George, a former Auckland police officer, made no bones about expecting to succeed Maoate.

But claiming he was unaware of any political pressure on Maoate, George said: "I'm saying his leadership is guaranteed."

George's sacking comes in the wake of alleged interference by top public servants in carrying out Government policies and a proposed merger between the ruling coalition groups, the Democratic Alliance Party and the New Alliance Party.

Political commentators in the Cook Islands say while George's sacking is likely to cause ripples in the political arena, Dr. Maoate is likely to make a quick appointment of a new deputy.

According to the Cook Islands News, George’s persistent demands for increased budget allocations for his office and portfolios culminated in the sacking.

"The demands you have made during the budget process for the year 2001/02 have imposed an intolerable strain on the Cabinet, Caucus and the government," Cook Islands News quoted a Maoate letter to George as saying.

Cook Islands News said Maoate has taken charge of the portfolios held by the New Alliance Party leader -- including Health, Police, Crown Law, Broadcasting and Communication, Telecommunications and Information Systems, the Customs Border Enforcement Unit, Tuanga Taporoporo (Environment Services) and the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Unit.

"I trust that you and your staff will cooperate with my office to achieve an orderly transition forthwith," Maoate said in his letter.

Cook Islands News said it is understood George wanted an extra NZ$ 1.5 million (US$ 618,831) added to his office and portfolios in the budget for the current financial year.

George and Maoate formed a coalition between the Democratic and New Alliance parties on November 17, 1999, after ousting the Dr. Joe Williams-led government.

Without the support of George and his group the Maoate government still has the support of 14 members in the 25-member House.

For additional reports from the Niue Economic Review, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Magazines/Journals/Niue Economic Review.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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