MPs look set to reform an archaic and discriminatory law – the ban on floral ei katu in the debating chamber.
“If we feel the time is right to change the rules to reflect the reality of today, let’s do it,” said Prime Minister Henry Puna, with modernising zeal.
He was responding to a challenge from Democratic Party leader Tina Browne, who asked why women MPs weren’t allowed to wear head ei, a customary Cook Islands ornament.
Browne said she looked through the Standings Orders but there was no provision for ei katu in Parliament.
Yet whenever they visited Parliaments overseas, they were allowed to enter the House with their ei katu – a trademark for female Cook Islands MPs.
Local craftswoman Mii Upu, who specialises in the art of making ei, said MPs should be allowed to wear head ei in the House.
Ei were a symbol of friendship, love and respect, she said, and very much engrained in the Cook Islands custom.
“It’s part of our culture, we wear ei katu at all occasions and functions and I think it’s about time female MPs should be allowed to wear them in Parliament,” Upu said.
“Adorning ourselves with flowers should be encouraged and promoted.”
Prime Minister Henry Puna backed the suggestion, saying MPs had the power to change Standing Orders if they felt the time was right to modernise the law.
“Let’s do it,” he said. “It’s up to you ladies – but also consider menfolk, we also like to wear flower ei in the House.
“Let’s not be bound by rules that we think is out of date, let’s instead look at what we can do to bring it in line to the norms today.”
Deputy Speaker Tai Tura, who headed the proceedings in Parliament yesterday, said he also agreed with the idea of MPs allowed to wear head ei in the House. “But with no artificial flowers on the ei, they must be natural flowers,” Tura said.
Clerk of Parliament Tangata Vainerere said only a select committee looking into the Standing Orders under the leadership of Speaker Niki Rattle could make the necessary changes to allow ei katu in Parliament.
“There has been no decision on this yet, only a suggestion has been made and what needs to be done is the select committee looking into the Standing Orders may need to take note to put provisions allowing for such dress code to be included in Parliament.”