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Demo workers victimised: Rasmussen

Saturday October 18, 2014 Written by Published in Politics
Opposition Leader Wilkie Rasmussen Opposition Leader Wilkie Rasmussen

The toxic effects of party politics have crept up in the outer island of Penrhyn, claims Democratic Party Leader Wilkie Rasmussen.

Rasmussen issued a statement yesterday with details of the allegations, in response to an article earlier this week highlighting the concerns of workers’ rights advocate Anthony Turua, over party politics in the outer islands and the effect on workers.
The allegations by the Demo leader are pointed to Teremoana Viniki, a man described as a “Cook Islands Party supporter who appears to hold the position of Finance Officer and Acting Executive Officer.”
“I have received complaints from these workers who said that for three fortnights now, their pay had been docked by Mr Teremoana Viniki without any explanation to them,” Rasmussen wrote.
Additionally, Rasmussen claims two other workers - who returned to Penrhyn several months ago after taking leave to accompany their wives for medical treatment in Rarotonga and in New Zealand - have not had any pay since they got back to the island.
“They have resumed work in Te Tautua village where they live but have not collected any pay, as none of their working hours had been sent to MFEM in Rarotonga for processing of their pay,” claims Rasmussen.
“This is unacceptable. These people have debts to pay and need money for food to feed their children and families.”
CI News was unable to reach Viniki yesterday for comment on the allegations.
When reached by phone, Penrhyn Mayor Tini Ford re-iterated much of Rasmussen’s concerns over Viniki’s alleged actions.
“I’m not happy with this fella,” said Ford.
The Mayor said Viniki has defended his decision to withhold pay by claiming there are issues with the workers’ on-the-job performance, but he’s not buying the explanation.
Ford has sought legal advice of Rasmussen, who acts as the legal advisor to the Penrhyn Island Council. 
“I wrote a letter to Mr Viniki and copied it to Mr Tini Ford, Penrhyn’s Mayor and Willie John, the island’s MP, outlining what I believe was his legal status as a Government worker and his responsibilities but he is defiant,” wrote Rasmussen. “I have not heard from Willie John, but the Mayor and I are working together to stop this sort of nonsense ... these are the sort of things that will divide the Penrhyn community.”
Assistance on the matter has been sought from the Office of the Prime Minister, which administers island Governments.
Rasmussen said he has written to Chief of Staff Elizabeth Koteka, however, her efforts “... to clarify the responsibilities of Mr Viniki to him had fallen on deaf ears”.
Vaine Wichman, the new Penrhyn Executive Officer, has also been briefed on the matter, he said, adding he will soon be writing to the Public Service Commissioner to call for an investigation.
Rasmussen describes the affected workers as his “supporters”.
“These people have chosen who they wished to support in the last general elections, and this sort of undue pressure and influence should not be used to instil fear into them so that they could abandon what and who they believe in.” he wrote.
“These were the things I fought against in the past and brought peace to the island while at the same protecting the islands workers. If unprotected they will leave for overseas.”

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