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Misunderstandings about Chiefly proclamation aired

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (The Cook Islands Herald, June 23, 2008) – The Cook Islands House of Ariki meeting was attended by seven Paramount Chiefs and two representatives who gathered to hear the message the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) had to deliver to them on behalf of the government.

[PIR editor’s note: The Constitution provides for a House of Ariki comprising up to 14 ariki appointed by the Queen's Representative, the functions of the House being to "consider such matters relative to the welfare of the people of the Cook Islands as may be submitted to it by [Parliament] for its consideration, and it shall express its opinion and make recommendations thereon to [Parliament]."]

The opening prayer was delivered by Vaeruarangi Ariki, who called for patience when hearing the views of those who differ from your own saying that genuine understanding will lead to unity.

Sir Terepai greeted the members of the Ariki saying that the meeting was a good opportunity to voice the concerns of Government about the events of late stemming from the Royal Proclamation issued on 16 June in Taputapuatea. The government was concerned because the Proclamation could create havoc or confusion if it were released to the world. He then asked the Are Ariki to please let know the government know what their views are and explain what is troubling them.

The DPM then invited acting Solicitor General from Crown Law to explain the Constitution and the House of Ariki Act 1966, in order for the members of the House to understand the turanga of the Ariki in the country.

Elikana gave a history of the country from the time the Ui Ariki accepted the protection of Great Britain, the annexation of the Cook Islands by New Zealand in 1901.

Then in 1965, the country became self governing and enacted the Constitution, the supreme law of the country and recognizes Queen as Head of State and her Kauono is Sir Frederick Goodwin. Duties of the QR include signing the royal assent to enact the Bills passed in Parliament.

Sir Terepai took a conciliatory approach and told the Are Ariki that the government do not disrespect the Paramount Chiefs, rather they are the Tavini to the Ariki who are their Arataki and assured them that the government is not trying to belittle them.

He told the Are Ariki that their actions had been reported to the world and there had been concerns that our country was in the middle of a coup similar to Fiji or the turmoil in Tonga.

He said his karere or message was a plea for peace and unity before inviting any member of the Are Ariki for a right of reply. The DPM said government had already met the person behind the Proclamation last year when he made a presentation to the nodule committee with promises of untold riches and asked the Ui Ariki not to fall for his promises.

Vaeruarangi Ariki from Aitutaki addressed the DPM saying he appreciated what had been said but the government is mistaken and the Proclamation is not what they are portraying. In fact, the message from the Ui Ariki to the government is ‘do not touch the minerals’ saying that comparing the Proclamation to a coup was untrue and ‘not even close’.

This message appeared to take the DPM aback somewhat before he asked the Are Ariki to please consider their position and to give the government their reply.

Manarangi Ariki thanked the DPM for passing on the views of government and assured him that the Are Ariki will discuss the matter and come back with their answer.

Present at the meeting were Rongomatane Ariki (Atiu), Manarangi Ariki (Aitutaki), Vaeruarangi Ariki (Aitutaki), Tamatoa Ariki (Aitutaki); Ngamaru (Atiu); Poiterere Ariki (Mitiaro); and Moeroa Maoate (for Pa Ariki) and Mere Macquarie (representing Makea Nui). Observers included Junior Maoate from the nodule committee, Barbara Dreaver and cameraman from TVNZ, CITV, CI Herald and CI News as well as several policemen stationed outside.

The Cook Islands Herald:

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