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Puna wins confidence of majority of MP’s

Friday October 10, 2014 Written by Published in Politics
PM Henry Puna. PM Henry Puna.

Opposition MP’s outraged, call confidence vote ‘illegal’

Prime Minister Henry Puna won the confidence of a majority of Members of Parliament during what has emerged as a controversial first sitting of the House, held on Wednesday night.
PM Puna passed the open vote by a count of 12 to 9, with all votes of support coming from the dozen MP’s representing the Cook Islands Party.
All votes of non-confidence in Puna were cast by Democratic Party MP’s, while the two members representing One Cook Islands abstained by walking out of the House - and later describing the entire process as illegal.
In Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and Akaoa MP Teariki Heather put forward the confidence motion, which was seconded by Takuvaine MP Mark Brown.
Giving an account of the sequence of events, Brown said the Demo’s attempted to derail the motion by requesting that voting be carried out through secret ballot.
Brown said he countered the Demos by saying, “This is Parliament and everybody is  representative of their constituency ... it’s important each constituency can see where their member votes.”
Speaker Niki Rattle – elected earlier in the evening for a second term – allowed voting to proceed and was carried out openly by having each Member stand in support of Puna.
The main controversy arose later in the evening and outside of the Parliament, when Demo MP for Murienua James Beer brought up a concern with Speaker Rattle on Parliament’s standing orders not being adhered to.
According to an unofficial version of the events, the majority CIP Government failed to suspend Standing Order #397, which stipulates that “... a Minister must attach his written resignation with the motion”.
In this case, Beer inquired with the Speaker on whether Deputy PM Heather should have been required to resign as Minister when he put forward the confidence motion.
Yesterday, Rattle acknowledged her meeting with Beer and his concern on Parliamentary procedure.
She said, due to time restrictions, Parliamentary officials were unable to consult on the matter and seek advice from Crown Law.
A meeting was held yesterday afternoon between Rattle and her Parliamentary colleagues to look into the matter, with possible action to follow if required, she said.
“I didn’t think at any time it was a concern that shouldn’t be dealt with,” said Rattle.
With Parliament adjourned, the matter will not be debated by MP’s until the House re-convenes for its next sitting - expected later this month.
For his part, Beer said the manner in which things were handled represents a greater problem of Parliamentary procedure not being adhered to.
“It appears that some of these Standing Orders are used only when it’s convenient,” he said.
On abstaining from the vote, One Cook Islands Leader Teina Bishop said the entire confidence motion was “illegal”.
“The appointment of the Prime Minister was illegal,” he said.
Bishop said, also as per Standing Orders, a confidence motion would have to appear on the day’s Order Paper. According to a copy of the document obtained by CINews, no mention of the confidence motion is made.
Puna has responded to the controversy by saying, “the vote of confidence was a loud and clear demonstration of the solidarity of the CIP and government members.”          

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