Cooks Parliament Sits For 2 Days, Adjourned For The Year

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

PM makes statement about contributions of purse seine fishery

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Dec. 16, 2015) – Prime Minister Henry Puna closed the doors on parliament yesterday afternoon after a record short two-day sitting.

As today marks the inaugural Aitutaki Day, Puna said he and the Members of Parliament for the Pa Enua would be travelling to Aitutaki.

Monday and Tuesday were the only days the government could sacrifice for parliament to sit, said Puna.

With Aitutaki Day in mind they were quick to see the orders of business dealt to, by passing a number of bills such as the Rarotonga Waterworks Ordinance Amendment Bill 2015, the International Companies Amendment Bill 2015 and the Banking Amendment Bill.

Introduced by the Deputy Prime Minister Teariki Heather, the Rarotonga Waterworks Ordinance Amendment Bill amends the original bill, passed in 1960.

Oddly, the original bill only allowed waterworks and maintenance to be undertaken by the Minister of Infrastructure himself, and with this amendment ICI staff and contractors can undertake this work, related to the Te Mato Vai project.

Prime Minister Henry Puna also gave a ministerial statement on fisheries in the Cook Islands, reiterating points he has made during the year about the significant contribution purse seining can make to the Cook Islands’ economy. It was certainly not as eventful as the last sitting of parliament in June, where the Opposition Coalition attempted to put forward a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Henry Puna, aiming to overthrow the government.

This week the rift between the Democratic Party and One Cook Islands was obvious, with OCI members Teina Bishop and George Maggie sitting on the opposite side of the debating chamber. During the last sitting of Parliament Maggie joined the Democratic Party on the other side of the House.

Democratic Party MP for Murienua, James Beer took every opportunity to raise concerns about unauthorised expenditure by the government and the lack of parliamentary sittings.

Speaker of the House Nikki Rattle warned Beer to stick to the agenda, and said the Cook Islands Constitution stated parliament need only sit for a single day a year.

"And we sit many more days than that," she said.

Democratic Party Member of Parliament for Titikaveka, Selena Napa asked for government support should the Opposition put forward a bill to ask that parliament sit every six weeks, but her suggestion was not met with any enthusiasm by the government.

This means the 24 Members of Parliament have sat for a total of 10 sessions this year.

On average, Parliament of the Cook Islands sits for at least 20 half days a year. However Finance Minster Mark Brown said amendments to the MFEM Act aimed to see parliament sit in future for a minimum of 30 days a year.

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