Speaker Niki Rattle opened the day’s session, reminding government MPs that when they joined parliament and took their seats, they had also taken an oath of allegiance.
Rattle said she was very concerned with the clear “unparliamentary” conduct and abuse of funds by outer island MPs - the opposition members who had failed to attend parliament for the second day. “These members of parliament are summoned by the Queens Representative to come to Rarotonga and they are paid out of the civil list, whereby boarding allowances are paid as well, for the period they are here for the sitting.”
Rattle said it had become obvious to her and the people of the Cook Islands through the media that instead of attending parliament, some MPs had decided to go out in the community doing the work of politicians.
“They were politicking and this is clear abuse of funds as you have all seen in the media. Funds from the civil list were provided for this sitting and today they are not here again, the second day of abuse of civil list funding.
“It is important for MPs to know that the business of parliament can only be dealt with in parliament and therefore I have read a lot of not very nice things about the Speaker and the MPs and I stay true to what I know and what MPs are to be,” Rattle said.
She said it was her responsibility to hold the integrity of the House and she intended to do that. Deputy prime minister Teariki Heather posed a question to prime minister Henry Puna what powers the government had to suspend the opposition members from parliament.
“What should the government do to the events of Monday and do we have the powers to deduct their salary or refund the funds spent on them?
“Because the integrity of this house is important and as seen yesterday, the members of this house have shown arrogance and disobedience to the people of this country,” Heather said.
Puna replied that he believed the opposition had held good reasons for not turning up to parliament yesterday as they were in court.
“I really thought this job belongs to the lawyers, but now they all want to be lawyers and they waited until the parliament sitting was in progress then they delivered to the court.
This is all a childish behavior,” Puna said.
The PM asked the Speaker to be patient as he was also concerned and saddened that the opposition had brought disrepute to the country’s good name.
“It will be the people’s vote that will judge the opposition; it has been three months since June (when the) opposition caused these problems, but they waited until yesterday to demonstrate that they have a problem. “WHAT THEY have been doing all this time, they have been complaining to the media but they didn’t do anything. And I know why they could not do anything because they have been advised by those who know the law that they won’t achieve anything out of it.”
Puna told the Speaker it was parliament’s role to be responsible for the issuing of funds to opposition MPs and to chase them to get the money refunded.
“For those who have not turned up to the house to refund (it), the regulations already exist but we will also be right to think that they shouldn’t be paid for not attending the parliament.
“This is one area to look at in the future so that any loophole in the use of public funds can be dealt with.”
Puna said government wouldn’t rush into any decision in what he described as “challenging times.”
“Let’s wait until everything is clear and discuss these things. I trust in the judgment of the people,” he added.