Puna said the opposition had abrogated their responsibilities as Members of Parliament and called the decision “disgraceful”.
“It’s the first time I’m aware of in the history of our parliament that there has been a whole opposition no-show.
“Particularly since we were summoned by the Head of State to this important sitting, and it is important, because they are aware we are dealing with the report into purse seining.
“You know it’s good to have a whole range of views. And they already made it clear in the past that they are opposed to it. And we need to have all the opposing views on the table so that we can have a full and complete discussion. So that’s very disappointing.”
For the record, the government yesterday tabled the Select Committee’s report on purse seining.
Puna added: “They have to explain, not just to the country but to their supporters, why they have chosen not to show up. I think it is an abrogation of their responsibilities as Members of Parliament.
“They’ve complained about the insufficiency of sitting days of parliament and, well we’ve organised this … to deal with these important reports. They haven’t bothered.
“One has to question why. I look forward to what they have to say.”
Asked if there would be any comeback against the opposition, Puna said: “The best response will come from the public and the court of public opinion will severely reprimand them for what they have done today.
“And I think that’s the best court to deal with the issue. Let the public decide why and how they should be punished for not turning up.”
“I’m very disappointed. Very disappointed. It’s an opportunity to have a vigorous debate on what they have purported to be a sensitive and very important issue and they’ve deprived us – and the country — of that opportunity.
“I suspect they were scared. But you have to ask them. I look forward, with interest, to hear them say why they didn’t turn up.”
Earlier, Mark Brown told Parliament: “The 12th of September, 2016 will go down as a day of infamy in the Cook Islands.
“A day of infamy in that the entire opposition bench has refused a summons to parliament.
“At the end of the last session of parliament, the opposition attempted a move that was disrespectful of this house. When they assumed the chair of parliament and attempted to conduct a session of parliament illegally.
“From a day of disrespect, Madam Speaker, they have today dishonoured this House by their conduct.
“In over 50 years that this house has been in existence as Parliament of the Cook Islands, not once has the opposition ever ignored a summons to attend.
“Their obvious show of contempt for parliamentary procedure and their dishonouring of this house is nothing short of a disgrace.”
Brown said from being an opposition that was critical of the sitting days of the government during parliament, they themselves have now demonstrated absolutely no honour for the House after being summoned.
He suggested looking at these members of the opposition who had chosen not to be in parliament and looking at docking their pay.
“It was nothing more than a childish display. (An) immature display by an opposition that is trying as much as they can to be the government, but are demonstrating today they cannot even form an opposition.”
And, he said, it came on the back of a public statement by Democrat leader William “Smiley” Heather assuring the people the opposition members would be attending parliament.
“We turn up and there is no opposition.”
He said his sympathies went out to the supporters of the Democratic Party and One Cook Islands in that their own members had failed to honour them by turning up in parliament to face the government at this start of the parliamentary session.