The Cook Islands’ political situation is fragile and the government could change at any time, says an experienced political commentator.
Speaking to CINews on condition of anonymity, the source says the government could change within months or even weeks.
The possibilities are said to range from the CIP replacing prime minister Henry Puna with Finance minister Mark Brown, to the formation of a new coalition government which would be achieved by several MPs crossing the floor.
At the centre of the uncertainty surrounding the government’s future is the fate of dumped Internal Affairs minister Albert Nicholas, who has been suffering serious health issues, the source says.
At the swearing in of Mac Mokoroa as the new Internal Affairs minister on Wednesday, Puna told Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters that it had become necessary for him to terminate the appointment of “a minister” for personal reasons.
Clearly referring to Avatiu-Ruatonga-Palmerston (RAPPA) MP Nicholas, Puna said: “He has been unable to discharge his responsibilities of the high office of minister and it has become necessary for us to terminate the appointment and appoint a new minister in his place.”
Before this year’s general election in June, Nicholas spent some weeks in an Auckland, New Zealand hospital suffering from what was said to be a serious blood infection that had started with a centipede bite. He had been a patient at Rarotonga Hospital for some time before that.
Nicholas, who has been absent in New Zealand since the release of the judgements on the electoral petitions, is still an MP in the CIP government. Under current regulations an MP may be replaced if he misses 14 consecutive days of a parliamentary sitting.
On Thursday, prime minister Henry Puna said he was expecting Nicholas back on the island sometime this weekend.
If the government decided Nicholas couldn’t continue as an MP, there would be a by-election, which Demo candidate Teina Rongo could have a good chance of winning, the source says.
Combined with MPs crossing the floor, this could also trigger a change of government.
Yet another possible scenario is that as a result of losing his Cabinet post, Nicholas might “walk”, However the CIP numbers might then be made up by another “vaka-jumper” from the Demo Party, the source adds.
Contempt of court features in five cases to be heard before JP John Whitta in the High Court today.
Five individuals face contempt charges, with one defendant up on four charges for the same offence. One of those charged with contempt is also charged with attempting to defeat the course of justice and is on a call over, while another faces a charge of being unlawfully found on a property.
Two people are appearing on separate charges of assault on a female, while another is charged with careless driving.
An application for variation of a probationary licence is also being heard. - CS
The Ministry of Culture failed to take advantage of Taio Shipping Services’ final subsidised voyage for the year to the northern islands, opting instead to pay an extra $200,000 for a load of fuel and dangerous goods to be transported on the Cook Islands Towage barge Layar Mas, says company owner Tapi Taio.