Danger lurks in the corridors of power

Sunday April 17, 2016 Written by Published in Tropical Chronicles

Pleasant surprises don’t come that often in our political democracy.


Often, we hear and read expressions of anger, frustration because our Parliament has not sat in earnest to justify the salaries paid to Members of Parliament by you and me, common taxpayers.

However, news has come forth that Parliament will sit in the next few weeks. To the proponents of a modern model of democracy, this is welcome news. But is it really?

Let’s ask this question? Is this calling of Parliament motivated by something else?

We know that the Prime Minister Henry Puna is fearful of calling Parliament for the very reason he might get booted out by a vote of no confidence against him and his cabinet.

We know also that there is no really pressing issue of national importance other than perhaps a supplementary budget but that can wait until June in the form of the annual budget.

What we know, however, is that public opinion is demanding that Parliament sit to demonstrate accountability and justification for Members of Parliaments’ salaries.

People are now resigned to the fact that a Cook Islands MP has the best job in the world – because you get paid for doing nothing.

And now, the Prime Miniser and his Cook Islands Party government is showing either guilt or has a “plan so clever” that it personifies a weasel.

New to the role of opposition leader, the impious Teina Bishop, backed by Democratic MPs and his One Cook Islands sidekick George Maggie  – who by the way keeps the cleanest stretch of road into and out of town –  is flaunting the possibility of a decisive blow against my mate Henry Puna.

Well, that’s not new of course, the PM has faced many a danger before and some from Mr Bishop but survival seems to be Henry’s forte.

Attempts have been launched within the house and from outside of the house to decapitate the PM and his crowd at the knees so their collapse will allow a new lot of wishful thinkers to take over the reins of power.

If you think that there options have been exhausted, think again because there within the corridors of Parliament are dangers, if used correctly could indeed result in a new Prime Minister and a new Government.

I’m sure the constitution expects of our country to know this very well.

I’m also sure that the common political pundits like you and me understand the basics of what needs to be done and what is not to do.

A former Prime Minister and Party Leader told me some years ago that it’s all a “numbers game.”

It certainly is now that the Opposition has locked in 11 members and the government have 13 – if the rumours area to be believed.  Such a number is not safe for Puna and his co-horts.

Well, actually, we can dismiss the number Albert Nicholas gives to the government because he cannot vote in no confidence motion or in support of the Government for an Appropriation Bill. That’s the effect of the “anti-vaka” hopping legal provisions in the Electoral Act of 2004.

If Albert votes in support, having being voted into Parliament by Democratic supporters and in the Demo canoe, he commits “hari-kiri” (political suicide). So the truth is the CIP only has one vote in front of the Demo’s – 12 against 11.

The machinery and minds behind Teina Bishop have made it known that the government have only a month left. What does that mean? They seem to suggest that they have two of the Cook Islands Party MPs in the bag.

Well, there could some element of truth to this by the way the Deputy PM Teariki Heather is behaving.

All of a sudden he has woken up again and engaging in the usual antics that he has used in the past – rally his troops; well at least the couple of CIP MPs in his camp, one in particular, Toa Isamaela of Amuri Ueria in Aitutaki.

There’s nothing like a taxpayer fully-funded trip to Hawai‘i and to Guam to dampen Toa’s agitation.

You would have thought that Teariki Heather would make up the number to topple Henry Puna, who he challenged for the leadership at the last CIP conference only to get walloped by Henry.

Well, let me say this, never write that scenario off. That could well be it, or perhaps Teina Bishop and the Demos have made an offer to an MP with huge ambition. Ooh, what could it be?

But here is what could possibly the true picture. The Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters impressed upon the PM the need to call Parliament.

The QR had felt compelled to do so because of submissions made to him by the new Leader of the Opposition that could be catastrophic for the future of the QR and that of the CIP Government.

 So the PM calls Parliament in June to diffuse the threat of the QR invoking Clause 13 (2) (c) of the Constitution of the Cook Islands where Parliament gets dissolved and the QR appoints a new PM from the rank and file of MPs who he thinks as his discretion dictates, is capable of performing the functions of the PM.

But is this just a façade? Could it be that, by calling Parliament this time around, the QR can then exercise his powers to defer Parliament for an unknown period of time? 

That would then be the clearest indicator that a snap election is imminent.         


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