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ALOFI, Niue (January 31, 2002 – Niue Economic Review)---Niue Premier Sani Lakatani has indicated he will stall the announcement of an election date to the maximum time allowable under the Constitution. That could mean an April election on the island.

After a question from Opposition MP Mrs. O'Love Jacobsen, the Premier referred to Article 26 of the Constitution.

That states if the Assembly has not been dissolved by a request from the Premier to the Speaker any time after two years and nine months from the date of the last election, the Speaker shall then dissolve the Assembly at the expiration of three years, which is March 19, 2002.

The election should then be held not less than four and no more than six weeks from March 19.

Opposition MP's say the Premier appears to be stalling in the hope of an announcement from Air New Zealand about a direct service from Auckland to Niue, the release of findings of a Commission of Inquiry into e mail and Internet services on Niue headed by New Zealand judge David Ongley and some formal agreement with venture capitalists concerning the launch of a US$ 300 million satellite, which could make Niue the IT hub of the Pacific.

In other Niue news, airline reports compiled for the government by New Zealand consultant Norman McFarlane have not been made available to members of the Assembly because of commercial sensitivity.

That's the word from Niue Premier and Civil Aviation Minister Sani Lakatani, who was asked at today's Legislative Assembly why the reports were kept secret.

The Premier said only the Joint Niue/NZ Consultative Group and the government's airline committee had access to the reports.

The consultant was paid by the New Zealand government.

The Premier said Air New Zealand is still considering a request for a direct Auckland/Niue flight and that a response from the airline "was imminent."

He also told the Assembly that there were no subsidies for Royal Tongan Airlines on flights from Tonga to Niue and several services had been cut in the past month because of the lack of demand.

Opposition MP Mrs. O'Love Jacobsen said she considered Parliamentarians had a right to know what was happening with the airline services because none of them wanted "another Coral Air."

During 1999 and 2000 Premier Lakatani paid out $400,000 for seeding a national airline using two Beech 19C aircraft but the deal collapsed and the government lost its money.

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

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