Cook Islands Parliament, Conducting Business Without Opposition, Passes Bills

Boycott continued with opposition calling session 'unlawful'

By Rashneel Kumar 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Sept. 14, 2016) – Parliament was adjourned sine die after two half-day sessions yesterday.

The bizarre parliamentary session which started after lunch on Monday only had the MPs from the Government side in attendance.

The opposition coalition boycotted the second parliamentary session of the year, calling the sitting unlawful.

After meeting a quorum of 12 members including party-hopping Internal Affairs minister Albert Nicholas, the parliamentary session began with the presentation of the purse seining report.

The other order of business included a number of bills awaiting their second reading.

These were the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, Juries Amendment Bill, Customs Revenue and Border Protection Amendment Bill, Public Service Amendment Bill, Statistic Bill, Currency Declaration Bill, Welfare Amendment Bill and Family Law Bill.

Yesterday, Leader of the House and MP for Penrhyn Willie John put a motion before Speaker Nikki Rattle to adjourn the Parliament sine dine.

The motion was “strongly seconded” by prime minister Henry Puna before it went to the vote. 

Finance minister Mark Brown said parliament was being adjourned sine die because government MPs had completed their business within a two half-day sitting.

“There is no other business to conduct with all seven bills now passed and all papers submitted officially received,” Brown said. 

“The only outstanding bill is the Family Law Bill and that is awaiting the report from the select committee.

“Without an opposition it is quite productive and shows how much work Parliament can actually get through.”

Meanwhile the opposition coalition earlier claimed the proceedings in parliament over the previous two days could be challenged in court.

They claim there are currently two vacant seats in Parliament –RAPPA held by Nicholas, and Arutanga-Nikaupara-Reureu which was previously held by Teina Bishop.

The Democratic Party had earlier claimed the RAPPA seat vacant “by order of Gazette”.

The opposition coalition said in a statement that the government had tried to convene parliament and have legislation pushed through that would affect the people of those constituencies, while those people had no voice in Parliament.

“The Democratic Party and the One Cook Islands Party view it as inappropriate that Cook Islands people are disenfranchised in this way, and so are not attending a parliament that will allow such a disfranchisement to occur,” the statement said.

“By (the opposition) not attending parliament, there is not a sufficient quorum of MPs for parliament to be lawfully able to transact any business under the Constitution.

“This illustrates the depth of the problem the government faces.

 The government can no longer convene a lawful parliament. It has lost any mandate to govern it may have had.”

PM Puna and other government ministers have lambasted the opposition coalition’s no-show, calling it “disgraceful and disrespectful”.

Cook Islands News
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