All Cook Islands MPs Welcome In Parliament Despite Police Investigations

Parliament to sit next week; police haven’t notified speaker to exclude anyone

By Rashneel Kumar 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, June 1, 2016) – Members of Parliament who may be under police investigation can continue with “business as usual” when parliament sits for the first time this year on Tuesday next week.

Clerk of Parliament John Tangi said unless parliament was officially notified by the police, MPs were permitted to continue with contributions to debates and other proceedings in the House without the “influence” of the allegations against them.

CI News has no notification of any MP currently under police investigation but in the past, some, including the ministers, have come under the radar of the law enforcers.

Last year, the current Opposition leader Teina Bishop and Cook Islands Party MP for Vaipae-Tautu Mona Ioane were both under police investigation.

Bishop’s case, relating to allegations of bribery and corruption and focusing on his relations with Huanan Fishery (Cook Islands) Company, a subsidiary of Luen Thai Fishing Venture during his time as Minister of Marine Resources, is in court now.

But there has been no update on the status of any investigation into Ioane, who allegedly committed bribery through the appointment of a field officer during the 2014 General Election in July, sparking the need for a by-election.

Prime Minister Henry Puna was also implicated in a road accident case in 2014 but he was cleared by police following an investigation.

“The proceedings and procedures of the House are not, I repeat not, influenced by what the media writes about any MP whether in government or in opposition,” Tangi said.

“By the same token, we are not dictated or influenced by public opinion. Parliamentary sittings have sets of rules to follow and adhere to.”

Tangi said it was not the business of the House to announce who was under investigation.

He said they could not judge an MP or a minister on the basis of allegations he was facing, adding it was a matter for the police to investigate. Explaining parliament’s role, Tangi said under the democratic system of government, and Westminster Parliamentary System, the three prongs or branches of administration in the society were (1) legislature (parliament); (2) executive (government) and (3) judiciary (court system).

“The parliament passes or enacts the laws; and the government implements or executes the laws; and the court interprets and administers justice as prescribed under the laws. Each of these three prongs or branches are independent of each other.

“I, as the clerk have not received any formal advice of any MP being investigated. Therefore, as far as the conducting of parliamentary sitting is concerned it is business as usual.”

Meanwhile the order papers (agenda) of the opening parliament session of the year will be finalised just before the parliament sits on Tuesday.

“Normally, I would say about an hour before the actual sitting because there are last minute changes that government might wish to make to the order of the papers to be presented. Or there could be some urgent matters that need to be included in it,” Tangi said.

“It is standard that all papers are finalised at the latest possible moment before the parliament sitting because if we finalise the paper in advance, there could be some changes and it will become very complicated.”

Cook Islands News
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