Cook Islands’ Queen’s Representative Sides With Government Quashing Opposition Takeover

Marsters agrees that Parliament was appropriately adjourned before vote of no-confidence

By Florence Syme-Buchanan 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, June 22, 2016) – The Queen's Representative has agreed with the government’s position that parliament was properly adjourned sine die on Friday, effectively quashing intense speculation that the country would be led by a woman prime minister for the first time.

A statement read on Radio Cook Islands via phone link by QR Tom Marsters shortly after 2pm yesterday, dismissed the parliamentary sitting held by the Opposition coalition on Monday, a vote of no confidence in the Puna-led cabinet and nomination of MP Rose Brown to become prime minister.

Although she commanded a majority 13 votes, Brown’s ambition to become the first woman leader have been dashed. For now at least.

However, she does make history as being the first woman to be nominated by an opposition coalition to be sworn in as prime minister.

Shortly after making his announcement on radio, the QR’s statement was posted on Facebook – all this before the opposition coalition had been formally advised of and provided with Marsters’ decision.

After considering the record of Friday’s parliamentary debate, the QR concluded it ended with a positive vote on a resolution.

“The resolution was that parliament be adjourned without a fixed date. In that case parliament will sit again when I direct, pursuant to the Constitution of the Cook Islands, Article 29(1) and the Standing Orders of the Parliament of the Cook Islands, Order 52.”

The QR made it clear that he “did not direct” a sitting of Parliament for Monday June 20. He also considers any of the events in parliament after what he believes was a proper adjournment on Friday to be “capable of recognition” under the Constitution.

Marsters believes the ruling made by Speaker Niki Rattle to be clear.

The QR’s statement that he has “…no proper notice under Article 14 of the Constitution, that prior to the adjournment on Friday 17 June 2016, Parliament passed a motion of no confidence in Cabinet” is confusing as that motion was passed on Monday.

Marsters did disclose that he received a notice (presumably from the opposition coalition) on Monday “…that the Members who signed that notice have confidence aMinister.”

The QR then went on to say that because those same members said that the Friday adjournment resolution was amended to adjourn Parliament to August 22, 2016, “there could be no Parliament on Monday June 20, 2016.”

The opposition coalition has argued that neither the sine die nor the August 22 adjournment options are valid as because neither were properly carried, there is no resolution.

Opposition leader Teina Bishop says while he respects the QR’s views, he doesn’t agree with them. While the opposition also has issues with the guillotining of debate on the budget appropriation, Bishop says they will focus on the validity of the vote of confidence by 13 MPs in MP Rose Brown.Currently working on the opposition’s legal position are three of the country’s most senior lawyers: Tony Manarangi, Tina Browne and Mike Mitchell.

A LEGAL opinion is also being provided by Charles Sweeney QC. Advising the opposition is also former clerk of parliament and authority on Parliamentary procedure and practice, John Scott.

Scott is scathing of the statement issued by the office of the Queen’s Representative. He presumes it was drafted by Crown Law Office Solicitor General David James.

“If this is the quality of advice the Queen’s Representative is getting from Crown Law, we are in serious trouble.”

He says there is “nothing logical or sequential in the way Crown Law has reached a conclusion.”

Scott says the content and quality of the statement gives rise to the question whether there is a deliberate attempt to confuse the issue.

“Or is it just plain stupidity on the part of the people who drafted this?”

Cook Islands News
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