COOK ISLANDS PM MAOATE’S ADJOURNMENT OF PARLIAMENT SEEN AS STALLING TACTIC

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By Moana Moeka’a

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (August 13 2001 – Cook Islands News)---Parliament was adjourned last Friday in somewhat controversial circumstances until August 22 after the government tabled amendments to the Appropriation Bill 2001 and budget estimates.

While Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dr. Terepai Maoate said that the adjournment would allow him to be present during the budget debate later, Opposition members claimed the move ensured that Dr. Maoate’s coalition government could not be brought down while he is out of the country, amidst speculation of a Cook Islands Party-initiated coup.

Dr. Maoate is attending the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting in Nauru, and has taken along with him independent MP Tepure Tapaitau as his "legal advisor."

"Why prolong the agony?" asked Oneroa MP Papamama Pokino in Parliament.

There was speculation late last week that Tapaitau, and fellow independent, Overseas Constituency MP Dr. Joe Williams were ready to support a coalition with CIP leader Sir Geoffrey Henry and NAP’s Norman George. However, it is understood that the parties could not agree over who would take over as Prime Minister.

When Dr. Williams arrived early last Friday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Robert Woonton and Tapaitau were on hand to meet with him at the airport.

Dr. Williams’ presence in Parliament last Friday — albeit for about three hours — caused a stir among the Opposition bench, with Tupapa MP Tupou Faireka stating that it had been a waste of money to fly up to Rarotonga for a sitting that was to be adjourned.

After Parliament, Dr. Williams told Cook Islands News that he did not know that the House would be adjourned and he would have probably not have come had he known that beforehand. He also would not say whether or not he was contemplating a move back to the CIP ranks to support another coalition government.

When asked what was going to develop in terms of the possibility of the formation of a new government, Dr. Williams replied, "Your guess is as good as mine."

Dr Williams has made two major back-flips during his political career. In 1978 he broke away from the-then Albert Henry-led CIP government to form the Unity Party. After rejoining the CIPs for the 1994 elections, he left the party again — for one day — in July 1999, to go back and lead a CIP/NAP government. He lasted as Prime Minister for only four months.

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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