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PR rights raised in Parliament

Thursday 26 May 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Economy, National

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PR rights raised in  Parliament
Minister George Angene asked Democratic Party leader Tina Browne if she supported the CEO of the office of the Opposition taking the government to court over Permanent Residency rules. Photo: Caleb Fotheringham/22052510

Leader of the Opposition Tina Browne says the Government should re-look at the country’s permanent residency (PR) rules that according to the Friends of Fiji president are discriminatory.

The issue was brought up in Parliament during Wednesday’s question time by Minister George Angene.

The Tupapa MP said he was “disappointed for what was written in the newspaper” referring to the comments made by Friends of Fiji president Tangaroa Vakalalabure, who is also the chief executive of the Opposition Democratic Party.

Vakalalabure, who has maternal links to the Cook Islands, earlier this month said he would take the Government to court because New Zealanders only needed to wait five years to apply for PR while all other countries needed to wait 10.

Vakalalabure claimed the difference in wait times went against article 64 (1) of the Cook Islands Constitution that says “in the Cook Islands there shall exist, and shall continue to exist, without discrimination by reason of race, national origin”.

Yesterday the Friends of Fiji lawyer Lavi Rokoika said the application was being finalised and should be filled today.

In Parliament, Minister Angene said Vakalalabure was “not taking the Government to court, he is taking the people of the Cook Islands to court”.

“Who is the government of the people of the Cook Islands? Who is this person who thinks he will take the government to court?”

Angene asked the leader of the Opposition, Tina Browne: “Do you support the CEO of the office of the Opposition, yes or no simple answer?”

Browne said the answer was not a simple yes or no.

“Under the constitution it says the rule is the same for black, yellow or white and for those who are brown, the Northern group and the Southern group,” Browne said.

“For me as the leader of the Oppositions office it makes sense because I have read the constitution.

“If they (Friends of Fiji) have a case they feel to seek further, everybody has the right to take matters to court.

“If you really look in your heart our law says we should not be bias between white or black.” 

Browne said the issue was not raised during the consultation process for the Immigration Act.  

“If this issue was made in the select committee then we would have addressed it but we completed our task and it went ahead without it being raised so I support the notion that we should re-look at this matter.”

Browne said like the Prime Minister, she had also consulted senior lawyers on the island that said this was an issue not looked at by those on the immigration panel.

Prime Minister Mark Brown told Cook Islands News he viewed Browne’s comments as supporting Vakalalabure.

“She said she didn’t think they’re fair. This is a big turnaround from her as a member of the select committee going around all our islands, taking the bill then coming into Parliament and passing it, now backtracking on the laws that we adopted last year. So to me this a big turnaround.”

Brown said New Zealanders getting preferential treatment had always been part of the eligibility criteria.

He said the fact that it was not brought up during the Act’s consultation process was not a valid excuse.