Why Rose went back to the CIP

Monday June 19, 2017 Written by Published in Opinion

The Cook Islands News lead story on Saturday morning was about Atiu MP Rose Brown returning to the Cook Islands Party late last week.


The CIP was the party she stood for and wrestled the Atiu seat of Teenui-Mapumai from the long-serving Norman George in the 2014 general elections.

I understand that Rose Browne and her husband Taoro met with prime minister Henry Puna and some CIP caucus members to confirm her return to the fold. This took place after she and One Cook Islands leader Teina Bishop and their associates met for the last time with the Democratic leadership and caucus. The topic of discussion was her making way for William “Smiley” Heather to reassume the Leader of the Opposition position.

If people recall Rose took over the position after Bishop relinquished it having taken it from Smiley in the first place.

As a former Democratic Party leader I feel obliged not to let that story stay in the minds of the public without putting across the true version of facts and reasons why Rose Browne returned to the Cook Islands Party. The reasons are very transparent and consistent with the possible repercussions of the anti-party hopping provisions of our 2004 Electoral Act.

The bottom line is Rose Browne returned to the CIP because she was afraid of her seat being declared vacant if she does not vote with the government in the next Parliament with regard to the Budget.

I believe she enjoyed the benefit of Democratic Party advice to her that the law has changed since the High Court delivered its decision about Albert Nicholas. The Demos took Albert to court over his betrayal of the people who elected him into office and in becoming a minister in the CIP government.

Although the court did not say Albert must return to the Demos, it did say clearly that Albert cannot vote with the CIP government over the Budget or matters of confidence. In fact the court stated that an MP who had crossed the floor can no longer run outside parliament and abstain from such votes, a luxury Norman George used to enjoy when he was elected a CIP MP, but crossed to the side of the Demo Opposition after the 2010 elections.

There was no longer a place to hide. Rose was now in Albert’s predicament and time was running out for her to do something about it. Rose was elected as Opposition Leader through clever footwork by Teina Bishop within hours of his court case going against him.  Rose also won the majority vote of the Demo caucus. The Demo MPs believed in the idea that Rose’s crossing over could also result in Albert Nicholas returning to the Demos, seeing Albert and Rose husband Taoro were close buddies. History now tells us otherwise and the fact Albert did not cross to the Demo side left Rose vulnerable and either she goes back to the CIP fold or she sticks it out. After all, being Opposition Leader she is one step to becoming the first female PM of this country and so she stayed.

To keep her tenure viable with the Demos she toyed with the idea that she would stand for the Demos in the next general election and her husband would also run in the other Atiu seat for the party. This was received with some enthusiasm by some Demo leaders, but it turned out to be all nonsense. What unfolded was an uncertain, inconsistent Rose Browne who was taking advice from Teina Bishop and other persons with dubious interest in Rose’s lucky break. She was not putting her full weight behind the Demo cause but, instead, she was almost acting as an intermediary for One Cook Islands.

For Rose there was no escaping doing the right thing and that was if she was true to her word that she is now a Demo, she will resign and win her seat for the Demos. Otherwise it would look a ridiculous situation that the Opposition Leader votes with the CIP while the rest of the others vote against the government. Because that is what the anti-party hopping laws as revised by the High Court require her to do.

The truth is, after the Democratic Party conference in April this year, Rose was approached by the Demo leader, MPs and executive and asked to resign her seat and run as a Demo. This would make the Demos happy as it would not be accused of being hypocritical, with it harbouring Rose for the same offence that Albert Nicholas was accused of and taken to court by the party.

This advice was given to Rose before Albert resigned to eventually win as a CIP candidate in a by-election in the Avatiu-Ruatonga, Panama, Palmerston constituency. But Rose and her cohorts were more concerned about her losing the Opposition Leader’s position. To her, that was a no go. I know she was scared that if she did, there was no guarantee that she would return as the Opposition Leader.

So what was the Demo party to do? It held a few more meetings with Rose and Teina Bishop and outlined its concern which was made more pressing by parliament sitting today. As I indicated earlier, it wanted to go into parliament assured that all Demo members in the Opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition and OCI MPs, would be a united force and vote together. You see the fact of the matter is that Rose, by her inability to decide, had cornered herself into a futile position and she has no option but to flee and rejoin the CIP.

Now let us be clear about a few things. The Demos were transparent, respectful of Rose and Teina Bishop and his team. It consulted clearly with these people as best as it could. It did not mistreat and abuse Rose nor did it ever promise Rose the leadership of the Democratic Party.

But one fact is clear; Rose was a glory hunter, an MP who was manipulated to take the short cuts to the top and best of luck to her for returning to the CIP. She came into the Opposition but refused to do the hard yards for the Demos.

In a way her return to the CIP was an option the Demos gave her, so the party cannot be accused of harbouring a CIP traitor. Those days of jumping across to another party when you get angry and demanding  your price are over and I can say happily that the anti-party hopping laws are working.

The Democratic Party leader Tina Browne in her column in last Saturday’s CI News said that there comes a time in coalition arrangements or any type of political arrangements when parties in it must make decisions for their own separate benefit. That is exactly what the Demo party is doing.

It is re-organising and re-energising itself to fight the war with the CIP for the right to govern our country. We know we can be better than the current lot.

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