RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (RNZI, Jan. 30) - The Cook Islands opposition leader, Terepai Maoate, says a stalling process appears to be going on with the Political Reform select committee.

The committee, of which he is a member, is charged with looking at whether to reduce the number of MPs, shorten the term of parliament and whether the overseas seat should be abolished.

Maoate says the committee is planning to visit outer islands to canvass public opinion but this has already been done by an earlier political review commission.

"There is a strong feeling that this may not be necessary and people are saying to us as members of the select committee that it appears that this is a kind of stalling process by government with regards to adopting most of the recommendations by the political review commission," said Maoate.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, Dr. Robert Woonton, says it’s up to the government whether or not it calls fresh elections once the work of the political reform committee is finished.

This contradicts what Woonton said in November last year when he stated that he had agreed to an early election this year amid public demands for political reform.

The prime minister’s communications officer says Woonton has declined an interview on the work of the select committee because as the chairman, he needs to remain unbiased.

January 30, 2003

Radio New Zealand International:

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