Cooks Democratic Party Leader Calls PM ‘Desperate’

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Rasmussen alleges Puna flew to Mangaia trying to shore up support

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Jan. 5, 2015) – Desperation drove Prime Minister Henry Puna to fly to Mangaia last Friday to try and persuade all three of the Mangaia MPs to join his government, alleges Democratic Party leader Wilkie Rasmussen.

Rasmussen says the Prime Minister tried to ‘sneak’ off to Mangaia but stuck out like a sore thumb, making it obvious to all that he was on a mission to hold office and save his own skin.

The Democratic Party team in Mangaia had told him Puna had offered ministerial posts to new Oneroa MP Wesley Kareroa and Tamarua MP Tetangi Matapo, said Rasmussen.

"But both turned him down, telling the Prime Minister they were happy with the progress of the Demo/OCI coalition arrangement.

"The third MP, former PM Jim Marurai, also informed me that he was not interested in such advances from the Prime Minister or the Cook Islands Party."

The Democratic Party Leader said he had discussed this latest turn of events with Democratic Party president Sean Willis and One Cook Islands Leader Teina Bishop.

"So now we all have for the record the extraordinary lengths Henry Puna is prepared to go to stay in the nation’s top job. The message has also been passed on to the Demo Party rank and file.

"It is an act of arrogance, one that shows the Prime Minister, of all people, flouting the law that stops anti-party hopping. Once upon a time, MPs crossed sides at whim and often with promises of Cabinet positions. This tendency created instability in past governments and affected the nation’s economy. It was part of the political reform measures to pass legislation to prevent party hopping."

"It’s incredible behaviour for someone who is supposed to be setting an example."

Rasmussen said he believed Puna’s trip to Mangaia had ‘probably’ been paid for by the taxpayer.

"For him to do something personal while on that trip amounts to conduct that is unbecoming for a prime minister.

"I have heard from those close to him that even if his own Cook Islands Party MPs turned against him and ask him to step down, Henry would stop at nothing to stay as PM."

Puna’s decision to fly to Mangaia may also have been prompted by the recent Demo call for him to quit, said Rasmussen.

He believed the Prime Minister might also have been ‘spooked’ by the fact that One Cook Islands leader Teina Bishop had been having ‘open, transparent and informal’ meetings with Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters, during which they had discussed the current political impasse,

"The Demo/OCI approach here is that the QR should act neutral at all times and accept that the numbers are Demo/OCI 12 and CIP 1, and for the QR to put to the Prime Minister the notion of resigning."

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