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‘Playing politics’

Wednesday 24 February 2010 | Published in Regional

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Prime minister Jim Marurai has accused the leader of the Democratic Party Sir Terepai Maoate of using the Aitutaki cyclone disaster to ‘play politics’.

Yesterday Sir Terepai, who was sacked from cabinet last year, reiterated his call for parliament to sit immediately so it can endorse plans for the recovery of Aitutaki following Cyclone Pat’s devastation.

He spoke to Radio New Zealand saying the country cannot afford a repeat of the delays that followed Cyclone Martin’s destruction of Manihiki in 1997.

“In spite of the fact that they have an industry with the pearl farming and what have you, lots and lots of people left the island of Manihiki because of delays. And for this one, the delay is really the government not wanting to call parliament to appropriate adequate funds to deal with the situation.”

The former finance minister said he estimated the island needs more than USD$10 million in aid support following the damage to most houses there.

He said a lot of work is needed to ensure the island’s contribution to the economy through tourism is maintained and that the young people of Aitutaki are encouraged to stay there.

Last week Sir Terepai and Cook Islands Party leader Tom Marsters issued a joint party press statement warning government that all major spending on cyclone recovery must be done with parliamentary endorsement.

But Marurai claims Sir Terepai is simply playing politics.

He told Radio NZ that he believes government has enough funding available, including access to NZAID funds, to see Aitutaki through its recovery. Finance minister Wilkie Rasmussen has also claimed that government can find the funding needed without calling parliament to sit.

Marurai has said parliament will not be called to sit before September when the date of the general election is to be announced.

Sir Terepai admitted any recall of parliament would see a motion for a vote of no confidence in the PM, but still says his concern is for the people of Aitutaki.

It is understood, however, that Marurai beleives this is only the latest attempt by the Demo leader to have the five-member cabinet ousted from government. There is also ongoing suspicion of Sir Terepai’s agenda following speculation of personal financial problems and the recent launch of an audit investigation into his involvement in tourism business support loans allegedly provided to three businesses associated with his son and Aitutaki MP Terepai Maoate Jnr.