PM, Brown ‘distort facts’

Wednesday July 25, 2018 Written by Published in Politics
Democratic party leader Tina Browne. 18072433 Democratic party leader Tina Browne. 18072433

Democratic Party leader Tina Browne has accused prime minister Henry Puna and his deputy Mark Brown of distorting facts, following their criticism of the Democratic Party’s position on Te Maeva Nui costs.

Browne says it appears comments made by Puna on national television and by Brown in yesterday’s CINews, were designed to create division among Rarotonga residents and visitors from the Pa Enua here for Te Maeva Nui celebrations.

“The Democratic Party supports Te Maeva Nui celebrations,” said Browne in a statement to CINews yesterday.

“That position was made clear in the consultation meetings held in June this year. We raised the question as to why the costs for year’s TMN were four times more than what was budgeted, four times more than the costs of our 50th anniversary celebrations.”

The deputy prime minister had suggested in his comments to CINews that the Democratic Party wanted to cap the number of northern group residents travelling to Rarotonga, Browne said.

“The fact is that the southern group islands were capped at 70 people per island and did not include the same benefits of unlimited free cargo as (given to) the north.

“Obviously the southern group participants would view this as unfair. From our perspective, we do not consider it fair or equitable.”

Browne said the number of travellers coming from the northern islands shown to the Democratic Party were Rakahanga 141, Penrhyn 123, Pukapuka-Nassau 205 and Manihiki 173.

The figures did not make any sense, especially compared to the capped numbers for the southern group, she added.

“Rakahanga stood out like a sore thumb because the number of passengers was more than the total population of the island (just over 90). We asked for an explanation, but our request fell on deaf ears.

“The comments we made at the two consultation meetings were based on what (we considered) was fair for every island.

“We urged government to prioritise spending and not be wasteful. How Brown arrived at the notion that the Democratic Party expects our people to ‘sleep on decks’ needs an explanation from him, because this was never ever raised at any of the two meetings.

“Mark Brown says it was all planned over a year ago, but written evidence from the Ministry of Culture says this was decided only this year.

“There is no evidence of this level of expenditure in the budget estimates, which makes what he says even more remarkable.

“This is unlike the 50th anniversary (celebrations) where the estimates and budget a year out from 2015 reflected it as an extraordinary event. The only other event that made this year’s celebrations unique, was that it was an election year.”

Browne said she was disappointed that the Central Agency Committee, which represented the caretaker government at the two consultation meetings with the Democratic Party back in June, had not corrected the “misstatements or distortions” made by the prime minister and deputy prime minister.

“We are compelled therefore to respond. It is also important for our people from the north to know the facts and not listen or read stories invented for political gain.

“The Democratic Party extends a warm welcome to all our people from the all over the Cook Islands. Enjoy your stay on Rarotonga and we look forward to watching the performances and being part of our Te Maeva Nui celebrations.”        

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