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Former PM calls it a day

Tuesday July 04, 2017 Written by Published in Politics

MP for the Mangaia seat of Ivirua, Jim Marurai is set to quit following the tabling of his resignation in parliament.

 

Though the veteran MP and former prime minister’s resignation was tabled on Friday, it would not take effect until his seat was officially declared vacant, a spokesman for the Office of the Prime Minister said.

The resignation will mean yet another by-election, but also raises the tantalising possibility of political reform.

Prime minister Henry Puna said yesterday in parliament that “maybe now” was the time to revisit the idea of political reform originally raised by Marurai in 2010.

With the seat vacant, it would take further discussion and the will of all parliamentarians to see this through, he added.

Marurai was first elected to parliament in a by-election in December 1994. He served as an opposition backbencher until June 1999, when he was appointed to the Coalition Cabinets of Sir Geoffrey Henry and Dr Joseph Williams and then in the Democratic Party Cabinet of Sir Dr Terepai Maoate.

Following Maoate's ousting in February 2002, he continued to serve as a minister under Robert Woonton.

He achieved nearly 23 years of service as a parliamentarian. He was a member of the New Alliance Party (NAP) with Norman George and in the Cook Islands First Party, again with George.and was part of several coalition governments during a period of political instability from 1999 – 2004

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said Marurai had always taken a strong interest in education, having had a teaching background on Mangaia. He held the education portfolio throughout his terms as a Cabinet minister and also as prime minister.

Marurai was elected prime minister in December 2004 after Woonton resigned in the wake of the 2004 election. 

Due to internal disputes he left the Democratic Party in 2005 to form the Cook Islands First Party, governing in coalition with the Cook Islands Party.

This agreement later broke down, and he formed a new coalition with the Democrats. He returned to the Democrats before the 2006 elections, remaining prime minister, but not becoming party leader.

He maintained his Coalition government until snap election of 2006 and returned as prime minister for the Democratic Government until November 2010.

Widely respected for his humility and quiet nature, Marurai in fact made a number of difficult decisions, including one in late 2009 when he was deserted by a majority of the Demo MPs.

This was because on December 23, 2009, Marurai sacked his deputy prime minister, Terepai Maoate, sparking a mass-resignation of Democratic Party cabinet members. He was subsequently expelled from the party.

He held power initially with a Cabinet of five and then six through most of 2010.

In January 2010, facing the prospect of a vote of no confidence supported by a majority of MPs, Marurai announced that he would not be calling parliament for at least several months. He said that no parliamentary sitting was needed until it became necessary to vote the budget, the deadline for which was July 1.

Both major political parties – the Democratic Party and the Cook Islands Party, asked the Queen's Representative to recall parliament, but the latter was constitutionally prevented from acting except on the advice of the prime minister.

Marurai was readmitted to the Democratic party at a party conference in June 2010. He then announced he would not continue as prime minister if the Democratic Party won the 2010 election.

He was re-elected to his Ivirua seat in the 2010 elections, but his party was ousted. He resigned as Prime Minister on 29 November 2010, and continued to serve as a backbench MP.

Despite saying that the 2010 term would be his last, Marurai stood again for Ivirua in the 2014 election and was elected unopposed. 

                - CS/Release