Matapo will be accompanied by deputy clerk of parliament Helen Maunga to the conference.
On Tuesday CI News received confirmation from New Zealand Parliament which stated their participation in the conference. However, Matapo’s participation as the interim deputy Speaker raised a few eyebrows.
Tangi said because of the political situation after the declaration of successful candidates and the urgency from the organisers of the conference, he needed to send the name of the MP, as they had passed the closing date for registrations.
He said his decision was based on his discussion with the Democratic Party’s William “Smiley” Heather.
“The organisers, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association desperately wanted the names and as a consequence, because both political parties are getting themselves organised to form government, the decision to send a MP to Wellington is the prerogative of the clerk,” Tangi said.
However, Democratic Party co-president Sean Willis said there was no such position as interim deputy Speaker of the House and questioned Tangi’s legislative authority to make such an appointment.
“The procedure for the selection of a deputy Speaker is clearly set out in Section 33 of the Constitution”, says Willis.
According to Section 33 of the Cook Islands Constitution, only parliament may elect an MP, not being the Speaker or a minister, to be deputy Speaker. There is no mention of the parliamentary clerk having the authority to make such an appointment.
“The headline in Wednesday’s CINews has created concern for the executive and supporters of the Democratic Party in the sense that an MP has crossed the floor. This is not true. The Democratic Party MPs remain solid in their endeavour to become the next government.
“This issue has nothing to do with the Cook Islands Party or the Democratic Party.”
Tangi said since the incumbent deputy Speaker, Mona Ioane of the Cook Islands Party, had been unsuccessful in the election, he could not put his name for the conference.
“I wish to clarify that this was not the decision of the deputy clerk, Helen Maunga. It was my decision therefore if there is any grievances or complaining from the opposition members on that, it is at my discretion,” he said.
“The buck stops with the clerk and I don’t want any MP blaming my deputy clerk. Also if I have hurt their feelings with regards to this decision, then I would like to publicly apologise to them.”
Tangi said he would like to put the matter to rest and would not respond to any further grievances in regard to his decision.
“There are more important things for them to attend to like getting things in order to form a new government.”