The challenge has been made by Democratic Party Opposition leader Tina Browne who says PM Henry Puna needs to demonstrate he is prepared to give something back to the Cook Islands people who will foot the extra $2 million to carry the cost of the unprecedented pay hike for politicians.
At present, Parliament is required by law to sit for a minimum of just one day a year, something that Browne says is appalling and completely neglects a duty to the Cook Islands people that sworn MPs have to serve to the best of their ability. She says if the government will not budge on changing the required number of sitting days, the Cook Islands Parliament and its members won’t be accountable to deliver better results.
“People need to speak out about the MP pay increase this government is intent on pushing through. Be vocal, be heard. State whether you think MPs deserve it or whether they need to earn it with more sittings of Parliament.”
Browne says the Democratic Party is also firm that in addition to the 45 per cent increase in sitting days, there should also be an additional 15 days “to show our people that they are getting some value for the $2 million dollars they will have to pay”. This would raise the number of minimum sitting days required of Parliament to 60.
With 11 members in the Democratic Opposition, Browne says only six more MPs “who have a conscience and want to do what’s right for our people” are needed to support a vote to change the Constitution to effect the increase in sitting days.
“This challenge is really putting to the test the integrity of MPs outside of the Democratic Party – if they really want to do the right thing for our people, then show it and support a vote to increase the number of sitting days.”
A two-thirds majority is required to change the Constitution.
“All we need is six MPs outside of the Democrats who will put the interest of the people first and show they really do want to do their best for our iti tangata.”
She stressed that at present the required ten day sitting when dealing with the Appropriation Bill is never achieved under the CIP government. “The sitting for the Appropriation Bill is nearly always slashed to two or three days by government which doesn’t give enough time to thoroughly go over and debate the Appropriation. “Our people should be very unhappy about this because it’s such a disservice to our taxpayers, to all our people.”
The Democrats have also recommended that the timely scheduling of Parliament sittings is introduced. This would allow MPs to plan their affairs ahead of time to fit in with the sittings. Quoting from the late Martin Luther King, Browne says in the Cook Islands, “We need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice.”
- Release/ Democratic Party