Cooks Prime Minister: First Priority Is Political Stability

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Puna tells Demos not to ‘get into a huff’ over moves

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Jan. 6, 2015) – Prime Minister Henry Puna says his first priority is to provide a secure and stable government.

That is in the best interests of the country, he says. "The Cook Islands Party must explore the political opportunities available to it, and as leader, I am obligated to look at those options."

"There’s no need for the Demos to get into a huff over it. You don’t see the CIP getting into a hissy fit because the political parties are talking to each other."

In an oblique reference to a story in yesterday’s CINews, in which Democratic Party leader Wilkie Rasmussen criticised the PM for flying to Mangaia in an attempt to lure the island’s MPs into siding with the CIP government, Puna said both the One Cook Islands and Democratic parties had been trying to poach individual CIP members for many weeks.

He said everyone would recall for example, how the One Cook Islands Party had tried to carve off the signatures of support from four CIP MPs.

However, the team had remained solid and supported Puna as Prime Minister with a vote of confidence in Parliament.

The PM acknowledged that emotions were bound to run high as crucial political events got nearer. But the Cook Islands Party was showing true character by exercising patience and upholding its integrity, he said.

However, Rasmussen said yesterday that Puna’s accusations that his party was poaching Cook Islands Party MPs were "absolutely untrue".

"I’m aware that some CIP MPs have had discussions with our MPs, but these were unauthorised meetings," he said.

"We are not worried about what the Cook Islands Party is doing because the Democratic Party is confident in solidarity and One Cook Islands is very strong."

He also claimed Puna’s political stability was ‘questionable’.

"Just last week he offered George Maggie of the One Cook Islands Party the position of Deputy Prime Minister, but George turned him down."

Recent weeks have been characterised by a war of words between the two political factions, with the Prime Minister declining to comment when Rasmussen first began claiming in December that the Demos and OCI had numbers to form a government.

However as the debate began to heat up, the PM soon weighed in with strong words of his own.

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