The only one to not sign was Te-Hani Brown, who last month said she was going to support and join the Cook Islands Party government.
Her defection is believed to have sparked anger on Atiu and sparked the Demo move to sign what is effectively a Memorandum of Understanding between Democrat MPs.
The document was unanimously agreed upon by the Democratic Party caucus (minus defector Te-Hani Brown) to demonstrate loyalty and steadfastness to the party, the current leader and its constitution.
Demo party leader Browne says she is reassured by all MPs putting their names to the MoU and promising to honour their word. The MOU has been structured specifically for the first day that Parliament sits with the Democratic MPs’ signatures signaling their confidence in Browne to lead in Parliament and their confidence in the party.
“We are looking forward to Parliament being called and I am renewing a strong message to prime minister Henry Puna to advise the Queen’s Representative to convene Parliament, stop delaying the inevitable,” says Browne.
If Te-Hani Brown does vote in Parliament against the Democrats, the party she stood for in the Atiu constituency of Tengatangi-Areora-Ngatiarua, this will instantly trigger the Anti-Party Hopping legislation.
In fact she doesn’t even need to vote for the government to trigger the law. By merely not supporting the Democrat vote – even by abstaining, leaving the chamber or not showing up – the process will begin.
If she does vote in Parliament then it will be counted and her action will initiate a notice from the Democratic Party to tender her resignation. When she does this, the process then kicks in for a by-election in Tengatangi-Areora-Ngatiarua.
According to the Demos, there is widespread speculation that PM Puna will approach the Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters to call a snap election – something that Browne is against because of the sheer cost of general elections, estimated at well over $300,000.
Browne has been reported saying: “An early general election would be irresponsible and a financial burden that the country should not have to bear ahead of time – especially when there is a possibility that an alternate government can be formed.”
The Democrats say that under the Constitution the Queen’s Representative may dissolve Parliament if so advised by the prime minister, however, the QR is not obliged to act in accordance with the PM’s advice.
They add that the QR must be satisfied, acting in fair and impartial discretion, that the PM, in tendering his advice, commands the confidence of a majority of Members of Parliament.
“If such advice is given by the PM, the QR must give Parliament the opportunity and the responsibility to resolve any doubt as to who commands majority. He cannot make an arbitrary assessment of the position,” warned Browne earlier this year.
Referring to the recent actions of Te-Hani Brown, Democratic Party co-president Sean Willis said it was well known throughout the party that when the MP’s mother, Rose Brown helped the CIP form a government and earned herself a ministership – “there was a very strong possibility of Te-Hani switching allegiance at a later date.”
“But we wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt to prove that we were wrong.”
Willis stated that he had not received written confirmation from the Tengatangi-Areora-Ngatiarua Demo committee on Te-Hani Brown’s position and which party she actually represents.
“People need to understand that the budget for the sealing of the roads and so forth in Atiu had already been approved and was supported by the
Democratic Party MPs in Parliament. “This work is going to be done regardless of who is in government.”
With respect to Te-Hani Brown party hopping, Willis says he is well aware of the pressure that’s been applied to the young woman to move.
“But she’s welcome to come back into the party at a later date after experiencing what’s happening in the dark side we call government.”