Cook Islands PM Says Opposition ‘Clutching At Straws’ In Attempt To Gain Power

Puna criticizes Democratic Party leader for demanding Minister ‘return to the fold’

By Rashneel Kumar 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, June 30, 2016) – The battle for power between the government and the opposition is intensifying with the Prime Minister Henry Puna accusing the opposition of “simply clutching at straws in its grab for power.”

Responding to Democratic Party leader William “Smiley” Heather’s ultimatum to Internal Affairs minister Albert Nicholas to “return to the fold,” Puna said the Demos continued to demonstrate “how wishful thinking is being put before the substance of facts.”

Nicholas, who was voted into parliament by the Ruatonga, Avatiu, Palmerston, Panama and Atupa (RAPPA) constituencies as a Democratic Party candidate, last year crossed the floor to take up a ministerial position in the Cook Islands Party (CIP) government.

Democratic Party leader Heather cited the Electoral Amendment Act, also known as the anti-party hopping legislation, which states that the seat of a member other than an independent MP becomes vacant if, during a confidence vote, the MP fails to support the majority of the parliamentary members of the political party the MP was a member of when he was elected.

Nicholas did not vote with or support the opposition Democratic Party members when they opposed the Appropriation Bill (budget) on June 10.

However, he seconded the motion to pass the bill.

Heather said if Nicholas resisted responding to the Democratic Party’s letter, they would then formally advise Speaker of Parliament Nikki Rattle of the situation and ask for his seat to be declared vacant.

But Nicholas hit back at Heather’s comments, saying the Democratic Party had “lost the plot.”

He added that they could not challenge him for voting against the party during the budget debate as he had not even been present in parliament.

Puna said Minister Nicholas’ motion for a second reading of the Appropriation Bill in Parliament did not qualify as a confidence vote under the party-hopping law.

He added Nicholas had also been expelled from the Democratic Party last year. 

“But Smiley thinks he can still demand explanations over everything Nicholas says and does.  They (the opposition) are clearly operating with a split personality where the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

“Albert Nicholas’ presence in the House last Monday was clearly nullified by the adjournment of Parliament on the previous Friday. 

“In any event, a defection by Atiu member Rose Brown would be problematic for the Demos.”

Cook Islands News
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