The sitting – the first since July’s general elections – began with a prayer and was followed by Clerk John Tangi summoning the new Parliament together.
“As Clerk, I formally welcome you to this House,” he said, addressing the 23 MP’s, with the 24th seat representing Mitiaro vacant as the island awaits a scheduled by-election next month.
Tangi then began reading the names of every Member elected during the recent elections, which was followed by the nomination of the Speaker of the House – a process that was subject to some scrutiny by Members of the Opposition.
Prime Minister Henry Puna, who nominated Niki Rattle to a second term, also acknowledged the six new MP’s, as well as the absence of Norman George and Wilkie Rasmussen.
“I can see without these two gentlemen, we’ll have a very quiet House in the coming future,” he said.
After nomination proceedings, Speaker Rattle then suspended the sitting and proceeded to travel to Government House to present herself to Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters.
An entourage consisting of Cook Islands Party MP’s and Parliamentary officials followed Rattle, as she made her way to Titikaveka to meet with Marsters and take the Oath of Allegiance.
Upon her return to Parliament, each MP was expected to be sworn in, followed by the election of a Deputy Speaker.
As of press deadline, it was unclear as to whether parliament would begin to deal with any bills.
Earlier in the week, PM Puna said a bill would be tabled during the sitting to permit the return of money seized from the bank accounts of a number of pensioners last Christmas.
At the time, Government had taken the money, claiming the funds were taxes owed by seniors collecting the New Zealand pension. A considerable public backlash forced the government to make a pledge to return the money.
An appropriation bill for the 2014-15 fiscal year will be tabled in the next sitting of Parliament – expected to be held later this month according to an official with the Office of the Prime Minister. - Emmanuel Samoglou