Pacific Media Watch

24 June 2015

COOK IS: Parliamentary revolt fizzles, but 'national unity' hope still alive

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Leader of the Opposition and Demos leader William Heather (left) and OCI's leader Teina Bishop cement their coalition agreement on Monday. Image: Cook Islands News

Phillipa Webb
RAROTONGA (Cook Islands News/ Pacific Media Watch): Attempts to seduce members of the Cook Islands government to jump ship and overthrow Prime Minister Henry Puna failed on Friday, but the opposition maintains hope that they can push him out and form a "new government of unity".

The CINews revealed in a column by political commentator Wilkie Rasmussen yesterday that the newly-formed Democratic (Demos)/One Cook Islands (OCI) coalition did not succeed with their attempt to oust Prime Minister Henry Puna in Parliament on Friday.

A source inside the Cook Islands Party (CIP) government has revealed to CINews that they were approached by a member of the opposition coalition to swap allegiances last week.

The member told CINews they, along with three or four other Cook Islands Party government MPs, were called by a member of the opposition coalition who attempted to lure them with the offer of a cabinet position if the Demos/OCI were successful.

The member said they were ‘not tempted’ and could not imagine any other Cook Islands Party members being seduced by the offer.

The reason, they said, was a common goal inside CIP not to ‘rock the boat’ during the 50 years of self-governing celebrations.

Crossed the floor
Minister of Internal Affairs and Democratic Party MP for Avatiu-Ruatonga-Palmerston Albert Nicholas – who crossed the floor earlier this year – would also not jump back to his old Demo cohorts.

“Do you think he would be offered a cabinet position in the Demos now? No,” said the source.

Rumours that Deputy Prime Minister Teariki Heather has been plotting his leader’s own demise were also quelled.

“If he was going to do it he would have done it when Parliament first sat last week,” said the source.

The source’s request to remain anonymous was due to loyalty to CIP and constituency, not a loyalty to Prime Minister Henry Puna.

Speculation is also rife that the allegiance of Cook Islands Party MP for Atiu Rose Toki Brown – also the Deputy Speaker of Parliament – may be swaying towards the Democratic Party.

Sources have told CINews this was why Prime Minister Henry Puna pushed to adjourn Parliament on Friday, rather than continue this week with Speaker of Parliament Niki Rattle away.

No comment
But when CINews asked Brown yesterday, she refused to comment on the matter, other than to say her loyalty to CIP was "very strong".

Leader of the Opposition William "Smiley" Heather denied that he had approached CIP members to cross the floor, but confirmed it was a member of his coalition.

It was a CIP Member of Parliament who "spilt the beans", causing the revolt plan to fail, he said.

Democratic Party MP for Murienua James Beer said although the coalition had now missed the opportunity, they were still pushing "for a government of national unity rather than a government of Henry Puna".

One Cook Islands Party leader, Teina Bishop, also confirmed Friday’s scheming, but said this was now "history" as the coalition sought to focus on larger national issues.

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Pacific Media Watch

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons