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Constitution Amendment Bill public consultations planned for Pa Enua

Monday 22 April 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in National, Parliament

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Constitution Amendment Bill public consultations planned for Pa Enua
Constitutional Review Special Select Committee chair Minister Tingika Elikana, and members Agnes Armstrong, Toa Isamaela and Teariki Heather at the Calvary Hall in Arorangi. MELINA ETCHES/24031305

The Parliamentary Select Committee handling the three Constitution Amendment Bills is planning to conduct public consultations for Ngaputoru- Mitiaro, Atiu and Mauke.

Dates for the proposed Pa Enua consultations have not yet been confirmed.

The three Constitutional Amendment Bills were presented to Parliament in the last sitting of 2023 in December and were referred to a Special Select Committee for review and consideration.

The Constitutional Review Special Select Committee is led by chairperson Minister Tingika Elikana.

The committee also includes Opposition Leader Tina Pupuke Browne as deputy chairperson and members Te-Hani Brown, Tereapii Maki Kavana, Teariki Heather, Toa Isamaela and Agnes Armstrong.

The Constitution Amendment (No. 30) Bill proposes increasing the number of Cabinet Ministers and removing the ability to appoint a non-MP Minister. The Constitution Amendment (No. 32) Bill provides for the ability for MPs to hold a proxy vote for a fellow MP, and Amendment (No. 31) Bill will allow a new Parliament to commence its work after a general election without waiting for the outcome of any election petitions. 

Parliament Select Committees secretary Margret Numanga told Cook Islands News: “The committee are currently planning to conduct its public consultations for Ngaputoru (Mitiaro, Atiu and Mauke) and if circumstances allow, anticipate conducting Northern group consultations remotely via Zoom.”

“However this may change depending on connectivity issues. Public advice will be announced once the Committee confirms its schedule.

Numanga says the Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Mangaia public consultations have completed.

The Rarotonga consultations were held in Puaikura on March 12, at the Calvary Hall, Arorangi, Takitumu on March 13 at the Titikaveka Sunday School Hall and Teau-o-Tonga on March 14, at the Sinai Hall, Avarua.

Rarotonga residents have strongly opposed an increase in Cabinet Ministers and a measure allowing MPs to vote by proxy. Additionally, some residents have voiced their disagreement with the proposal to allow a new Parliament to convene before electoral petitions are settled.

At the Puaikura consultation, Tony Tou, president of the Cook Islands United Party, presented their submission to the select committee raising their concerns.

“What is the justification for increasing the number of Cabinet Ministers at a time when the population has decreased from 17,000 to 14,600 as of last quarter in 2023?” asked Tou.

He said if the population had increased then it would make sense to have more Cabinet Ministers, “but right now there is a dwindling residential taxpaying population”. 

“It makes no economic sense to be doing this right now, it is fiscally irresponsible.

“More money is needed in health for our doctors and nurses as well as in education for our teachers and children’s resources.”

An indignant Doreen Kavana Boggs representing the Group for Political Change (GPC) was also opposed to the increase of Cabinet Ministers.

“These are times of struggle for our people and you are talking about increasing the Cabinet Members?” Boggs probed.

“You all need to look at the more important amendments that need to be addressed and changed.

“This is not that important to us. Our people’s concerns are important to us. Stop putting yourself first before your people.”

In Aitutaki, the committee consulted with the Island Council on March 25, followed by public consultations at Vaipae Sport Club and Ngapuariki Hall on the same day (March 25) and March 26, respectively.

In Aitutaki, the committee held a consultation with the Island Council on March 25 followed by public consultations on March 25 and 26 at Vaipae Sport Club and Ngapuariki Hall, respectively.

A consultation was also held in Mangaia on April 2 with the Island Government and Council, Aronga Mana and the public at the Vaitate Hall, Oneroa.

Numanga added that there were two public hearings sessions and it consisted of six witnesses and submitters. The committee had received six submissions.

  • Additional reporting from Melina Etches