Cook Islands Clerk Of Parliament Under Fire For Lack Of Neutrality

Opposition challenging Tangi’s comments that no-confidence move was ‘the work of the devil’

By Florence Syme-Buchanan 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, June 22, 2016) – The neutrality of the Clerk of Parliament is likely to be challenged by the opposition coalition following his actions to try and prevent them from having a proper sitting on Monday.

Clerk John Tangi’s neutrality is further disputed after his denunciation and criticism of the opposition coalition was publically broadcast yesterday.

John Tangi has not been sparing in his condemnation of events initiated by the Opposition coalition describing their actions as, “the work of the devil.”

Speaking on Radio Cook Islands yesterday, Tangi made numerous accusations against the 13 MPs who signed a document declaring their lack of confidence in the Henry Puna-led cabinet and supporting MP Rose Brown to become prime minister.

The clerk is supporting the position that the House did properly adjourn sine die on Friday. Tangi stressed that he wanted no part in what he described as disgraceful and arrogant behaviour by the opposition in challenging the Speaker’s decision.

He said the actions of the opposition were evil, showed a lack of respect for parliament and was causing disunity in the country. Tangi revealed that he had been formally advised in writing by opposition leader Teina Bishop on Sunday night of their intention to attend the sitting of parliament. Tangi said he purposely did not wear a suit to work on Monday, as is required under Parliamentary rules when the House is in session.

Tangi maintained that parliament had adjourned correctly and the Monday session was not in order. “I thank the Lord for giving me the wisdom,” said Tangi of his decision to dress casually for work on Monday.

According to the clerk, he and the Speaker were acting on the advice of the Solicitor General David James to order the lockdown of Parliament yesterday, complete with four police officers patrolling the grounds. That advice has not been made available to Opposition MP’s or the media.Senior Sergeant Teinaki Howard said they the police had been requested by the clerk to be present at the parliament building to keep the peace. The presence of four police officers at parliament building was viewed by opposition members as an overly heavy-handed and uneccessary.     

On instructions of the clerk, parliamentary staff did not participate in the Monday afternoon sitting. Tangi also ordered that the sitting should not be recorded by stenographers for Hansard or broadcast to the public.  Finance minister Mark Brown believes that the Monday parliament sitting is further rendered void as there is no record of the parliament sitting. However, parliament was briefly suspended to allow CITV time to be present and make a video recording of the 13 MPs sitting. CI News was told that audio from the recording would be transcribed to provide a record to Hansard of what had transpired. Tangi’s public venting against the opposition coalition on radio puts in question his impartiality, a requirement of his role as Clerk of the House, the opposition has stated. Opposition MP James Beer said earlier in the week that the actions and stance of the clerk were “unexpected.”

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