On Day 2 of the ADB annual meeting, Finance Minister Mark Brown participated in the 24th meeting of the Governors of the Pacific Developing Member Countries with the management of ADB including President Nakao. The ADB president outlined the banks strategy which focused on greater integration in the Pacific.

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Dear Editor, As we prepare to head back to the polls to decide who our Government should be for the next four years, it’s important for us to see what issues we’ve had leading up to now.

Let me focus on some key issues that people need to be made aware of.

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Dear Editor, You have reported the scurrilous manoeuvrings of the Government scrambling to hold power for their own benefit, not the country’s.

The solution to one CIP problem lies in shedding their leader, though that itself gives rise to more. As Bishop and George now hatch plots, what has happened to the investigation of serious bribery allegations against Bishop? Is delay once more a tactic of a government desperate to bring Bishop back into the CIP fold? What about our interests as voters – and taxpayers? The Government owes it to the people of the Cook Islands to either clear Bishop or charge him - before the July election.

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Election briefs: Keep up to date with the latest developments in the lead-up to the vote on July 9. Tama Tuavera, aka Captain Tama, is looking to represent the Democratic Party in Ngatangiia. Tuavera said there are a number of issues he wants to focus on if successful in his quest for office. “Muri is the capital of tourism,” he said. “We have the worst road on the island.” Not just catering to visitors, the well-known tourism operator said his main goal “... is to help the people of this village.” Candidates are expected be nominated at several public meetings being held in Rarotonga tonight.

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E manuiri au (I am a foreigner). I have made a home here in God’s paradise with my spouse who is of Cook Islands Maori descent.

I had the privilege of obtaining my PR certificate a few years ago after residing here some time. I have made and continue to make an effort to learn my spouse’s language, culture, and overall way of life. Though we are raising our children with values from the multiple cultures they come from, first and foremost we have instilled in them to respect their Cook Islands Maori heritage as this is the place we have chosen to reside and raise our family.

Over the last decade, I have seen many changes on Rarotonga. I’ve learned about an interesting land tenure system (where only indigenous Cook Islanders can own land), and followed Cook Islands politics with much intrigue. As a Cook Islander now, I have the privilege of casting my first vote in my constituency of residence in the upcoming elections in July and I am honored and excited at this prospect! However, given this major responsibility, I do have a view to share that I hope will be considered by Cook Islanders (indigenous and manuiri alike).

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Dear Editor, CIP vs DEMO or CIP vs CIP and DEMO vs DEMO.. enough already!

I have a question for the people of the Cook Islands.... “Are we not tired and embarrassed about being part of a nation that cannot control themselves? Seriously, someone should give us an award for being the only Pacific Island country that often has their Government dissolved by their Queen’s Representative! It’s pathetic if you ask me!!!

But most of all... lately it has been embarrassing to even be called a Cook Islander. How can you expect the future generation to bring their talents and skills back to the country and take an invested interest in potentially moving us towards a better future, when today’s leaders continue to stuff things up and give us a bad name world-wide! And to make it worse, they have too much pride to step aside or step down to allow for more educated and talented individuals to take up office.

There is no growth in this country. There is no consistency in direction; there is no confidence in any decision current and past Governments have ever made for this nation. It saddens me that during election months there are so many promises that get made by nominees to get votes, but once they are successful, those promises become obsolete. It raises the question if they even remember that the Cook Islands is not just a mass of land, but rather a large group of human people and this is their lives they are playing with.

But here is an idea – How about doing away with the political self-glorified parties and join all forces to run our country like a business! Employ Cook Islanders that are actually qualified for positions and not because they have huge families and networks that can put a tick in a box, but actual qualified, experienced and knowledgeable people with no hidden agendas but rather have a passion to do a job. And for accountability, set up an International Advisory Board/Board of Directors that can advise and mentor every decision tabled to Government. By doing things this way, we can get the best from every corner of the nation and encourage accountability and transparency. We are always restricted from having the very best people for the job because we are limited to individuals within the winning party.

As a 30 year old Cook Island citizen, I desperately plead to the people of the Cook Islands, Please for the sake of our nation, it is time for us all to drop the “popularity” game and play the “realistic” game. We need to seriously think about whom we are voting for and why! It can no longer be about voting to support uncle or aunty or because that’s the “party” my family has always voted for, but rather vote based on what they can bring to the table.

So, come on Cook Islanders, rise up from the shadows and the ashes that have been burnt many years ago and let’s be honest with ourselves and admit that it is time for “change”. No one is saying it’s going to be easy, but there is no reason why we cannot start now. We call ourselves a Christian nation, and yet we all know that if we really had God in our Government and in our lives we wouldn’t be in the position we are in today.

Changing Cook Islander

(Name and address supplied)

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Dear Editor, It is interesting to see how events have transpired over the last few months.

The Grey Power movement has certainly created a lot of noise, stirred the emotions of some and may have resulted in Muri Enua swinging towards the Demos for the first time. What’s also interesting is the actions of Teina Bishop and how he responded to the Grey Power fiasco by reimbursing the money that was taken out of Nancy Simiona’s bank account. People have commented both in the paper and on social media that Teina Bishop ought to be commended for his actions and that he has set a good example for other politicians to follow. However, his latest move with George Maggie resulting in a move by the Prime Minister in dissolving Parliament doesn’t seem to add up.

Firstly, Government had already committed to reimbursing the money back to the NZ pensioners. Government also announced that a bill was drafted and was to be tabled in Parliament not only to facilitate the reimbursement process but also to eliminate the back tax requirement.

Secondly, as a Cabinet Minister, Teina Bishop would have known that things were being put in place to address the concerns of Grey Power and its affected members which would have dealt with this issue in a legal and appropriate manner.

Thirdly, Teina was actively promoting and driving political reform with the Prime Minister prior to these events and was adamant that the political system needed to be reformed.

My question is; why on earth did Teina Bishop decide to withdraw his own money and reimburse Nancy Simiona and yet he knew that there was a bill that was ready to be tabled to be passed which would have dealt with this issue. Why did Teina feel that he didn’t need to attend Parliament on the day before the dissolution of Parliament even though he knew that there were bills before the house that required all members of Government to be present to vote?

In my view, Teina’s reimbursement and play in the media was just a publicity stunt designed to make his Government and Cabinet colleagues look stupid and to further promote Teina as a renegade and self-serving politician who has very little regard for his team, his party and his country.

If Teina really cared about the Grey Power pensioners, he should have reimbursed all money that was withdrawn from all the bank accounts or turned up to Parliament and supported the bills that would have allowed the reimbursement and the back tax issue to be addressed once and for all.

But instead, Teina wanted to play with fire and make deals which may have resulted in a change of Government and made us look stupid and vulnerable as a nation because of instability. He also picked the best tag team member in the political arena to play with who has no clue that was being used and that his political future is now in question.

This is very typical of Teina Bishop and it’s not surprising that he is under investigation for corruption and was overlooked for the DPM post. I also wonder if Teina was serious about political reform given what he wanted to do with Maggie and the Opposition.

There is no excuse for what Teina Bishop did and I hope people understand that this kind of behavior is stupid, unnecessary and not honourable especially as a Minister. Te akapeea mai nei koe e Teina.

CIP Supporter

(Name and address supplied)

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Keep up to date with the latest election developments in the lead-up to voting day in July.

The Cook Islands Party has confirmed it will be holding a general conference before July’s scheduled election, along with a leadership review of Prime Minister Henry Puna. CIP President Rau Nga said the conference will be looking at policies, along with elections for office bearers. To his knowledge, he said he didn’t envision a leadership contest, as nobody has come forward with an intention to challenge the PM. “He is doing a good job,” said Nga. Murienua Member of Parliament James Beer said he has his sights on holding onto his seat. While saying it’s likely that he’ll be selected once again by the village’s Demo committee, a nomination process will still have to be undertaken. “A lot of people think if you are a standing member of parliament, you’re automatically selected,” he said. Beer said an advertisement will be published in the paper for the nomination process, adding he wants the process to be “transparent”. Based on discussions with his constituents, he said most people aren’t focusing on the personalities of politicians this time around. “The three things that seem to be resonating from the community is people want government that is transparent, honest, and prudent,” he said. The MP has fought for the Murienua seat three times, including in the 2010 general elections. This time around, Beer could be in for some stiff competition if some rumours currently circulating through political circles prove to be correct. Echoing the rumblings in some political circles, Beer acknowledged he’d heard speculation that Deputy Prime Minister Teariki Heather could be running in Murienua, as opposed to neighbouring Akaoa where he currently serves. Chief executive Ben Mose from the office of Teariki Heather has mildly doused those rumours, that the Deputy Prime Minister was making plans to run in Murienua. While not denying the possibility, Mose said Heather will have the support of the CIP committee in Akaoa, where he has served for roughly a decade. “I can confirm that Akaoa will nominate Teariki to run again,” said Mose. CIP nominations are currently open for all of Puaikura, which includes the constituencies of Akaoa, Murienua, and Ruaau, he added. In Ngatangiia, Mann Short has announced his intention to run for office once again by seeking the Demo nomination. Short previously lost to the CIP’s Atatoa Herman in the 2010 elections, which also featured the late Sir Terepai Maoate as an independent. An issue identified by Short is the government’s policy on taxing pensioners. "All of our Pa Metua are entitled to live in peace and dignity in their golden years, and to enjoy their retirement from a lifetime of work and not be bothered by the taxman,” he said. A runoff vote for Demo hopefuls in the constituency has been scheduled for May 1. The Cook Islands News wants to help inform voters about who is standing for Parliament and what they stand for. However, there is a limit to the amount of free space that the newspaper is prepared to provide. Our policy therefore, will be to provide up to 500 words and space for a headshot photograph for all candidates who have been formally nominated and who have paid their required $500 fee to the Chief Electoral Officer. The wording, timing and placement of any of these statements in the newspaper will be at the editor’s discretion, but all will be published on the Cook Islands News website as part of our overall election coverage package. We will also publish further election detail that we consider is news. There will be no limit to the amount of paid promotion that candidates or parties want to do, but all election advertising will be on a cash upfront basis.
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Tupapa Member of Parliament George Maggie is being urged by his supporters to run in the upcoming election as a candidate for the Cook Islands Party.

The MP organised a meeting at Tupapa meeting house earlier this week on Wednesday evening, which was open to all the constituency’s residents regardless of their political affiliation.

An overflow crowd was seen at the meeting – attended by over 100 constituents according to Maggie – where he heard the views of his constituents.

The meeting was brought about by recent events, including last week’s snap election call and Maggie’s suspension from the CIP.

He said if the CIP executive bars him from running under the party’s banner, his supporters will follow him wherever he chooses to go.

“I’m not standing here for the party, I’m standing for the people,” he said. “In this village, nobody can do what I’ve been doing.”

Maggie has previously said he is open to joining Aitutaki MP Teina Bishop’s ‘One Cook Islands’ political movement.

CIP President Rau Nga said he was aware of the meeting, but said what was decided there cannot be put into force as the meeting wasn’t an official gathering.

“They have every right to talk, but that meeting wasn’t called by the Cook Islands Party,” he said.

Nga said Maggie will not have any privileges as a member of the Cook Islands party until his suspension is lifted.

“When will that suspension be lifted? I don’t know,” he said.

Nga said with the suspension of Maggie, the party has been forced to re-establish the Tupapa executive committee, beginning with the election of office bearers – which was expected to take place on Thursday evening at a meeting organised by CIP Secretary General Nooroa Roi.

Nominations for the constituency will take place at a later date, said Nga.

With the May 5 deadline for nominations on the horizon, he added “we have to move fast”.

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I hope Teariki Heather allows time for other proposals for the reclaimed land at the Punanga Nui to be heard before firming up on Brett Porter's idea to build a BMX bike ramp for teenagers. 

I too think the bike ramp is a good idea but I don’t believe it’s a great idea because it caters for a small portion of the population of which not all are bike enthusiasts like Mr Porter.

I don’t believe that these problematic teenagers or their parenst can afford the specialised cycles engineered under this proposal. Despite safety measures incorporated with such setups, watching teenagers fall off is not my idea of fun.

I urged politicians to take as much time as possible to consider all proposals and ideologies before firming up.

Now that this has been made public, I think having a carnival theme park that caters for the very young through to the old folks is my idea of proposals that encourages everybody to participate. 

An example would be putting up merry-go-rounds; water slides, bumper cars; swings; sea-saws plus food stalls dishing out candy floss, ice cream and spot prizes, will certainly bring about a more enjoyable atmosphere as opposed to a bike ramp …  even a setup of tables under the shade watching over the vast ocean is priceless..

This is prime land and anything built on it should benefit the very young to the very old and bring about a family atmosphere of enjoyment, pleasure and relaxation. I don’t believe another palace takeaway or a hut that duplicates what currently exist at the Punanga Nui this day be allowed on this site...

Let’s take time to consider all prospects before committing to the ideologies of Donald Trump and his merry men.

Jurassic Ranger

(Name and address supplied)

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Keep up to date with the latest developments in the leadup to voting day on July 9.

Finance Minister and Member of Parliament for Takuvaine Mark Brown said the Cook Islands Party will be having a number of meetings at the constituency level in the lead-up to next month’s deadline for nominations. “They have to be registered by Monday May 5 ... Everybody has to get their skates on,” he said. The party had meetings scheduled last night for Tupapa and Ruaau. Trevor Pitt confirmed Prime Minister Henry Puna will be running for re-election in Manihiki. The contest in the Northern group island could potentially see another rematch between the PM and Apii Piho, who’s currently seeking the Demo nomination. Teina Bishop’s budding political movement has been given a formal name – “One Cook Islands”. The Aitutaki MP said he has a list of five prospective members for the movement, and all have been described as candidates in the upcoming election. Enlisting a 6th member is also in the works, he said. Tupapa MP George Maggie was scheduled to meet his followers at the constituency’s meeting house yesterday to discuss his political future. Maggie has been involved with MP Teina Bishop’s “One Cook Islands” movement, however, he is still considering running as a member of the Cook Islands Party. Yesterday’s meeting – open to all Tupapa residents - was about gauging the moods of his supporters, he said. Should the CIP executive uphold his current suspension from the party, Maggie said he will join Bishop. The Democratic Party was scheduled to hold a meeting yesterday at the Opposition headquarters to discuss policies in the lead-up to July’s scheduled general elections. Also on the agenda were party finances and Puna reports. Demo General Secretary Eddie Drollet says the party will not be reviewing its leadership before July’s election. When asked if the party will be holding a general conference before the vote, Drollet said “I can’t comment on that”. Party leader Wilkie Rasmussen is currently in Penhryn, where he is believed to be meeting with his constituents. “Just rumours” was how media owner and former BTIB Chair George Pitt described speculation that he intends to run in the upcoming election.
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Plans by the Pan Pacific South East Asian Women’s Association (PPSEAWA) to encourage more women into politics were thrown a curveball with the announcement of the snap election last week.

President Alexis Napa Wolfgramm said PPSEAWA had received funding from the Social Impact Fund to carry out a campaign to educate women about what standing for Parliament means and how to go about it.

The only problem was their programme was based around a November election – and with nominations closing on May 5, it had presented PPSEAWA with a super tight deadline to achieve its goals.

The group had developed a handbook in English and Maori which was designed to be a handout; but the snap election had made it almost impossible to get it printed and distributed in time to be of any benefit.

Cook Islands News editor Mark Ebrey has stepped in and offered to publish the handbook contents as a series over this week, because he believes PPSEAWA’s work is an important part of the electoral process. The handbook can also be found on cookislandsnews.com in the documents section, where you can download Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

“While PPSEAWA is trying to encourage more women into politics, the contents of their handbook apply equally to men, and the CI News believes it has a role in helping promote greater participation regardless of gender.”

As well as the handbook, PPSEAWA has organised a workshop for women parliamentary candidates on May 29-30, which will have Papua-New Guinea’s first-ever MP, Dame Carol Kidu as guest speaker.

It has also prepared some television commercials aimed at promoting female candidates for the election.

Those who want to know more, or who want to get a copy of the handbook in full prior to its publication in the Cook Islands News can email Alexis at feminist@oyster.net.ck.

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Dear Editor, Never mind dogs that bark incessantly, nor the roosters that crow at all hours of the night; it’s the careless idiot with the weed-eater or lawn mower that should be shot.

A case in point are the young men working on the roadsides around of Rarotonga trying to keep weeds from encroaching onto the road: they are unrecognisable in their overalls, with rags used to mask their faces, but recognisable by their surly behaviour, whilst busily whacking sticks and stones in your direction.

They don’t seem to care about people in motor vehicles who are passing by.

These maniacs with weed-eaters or lawn mowers won't rest or stall their machines, not even for a second, until you have passed by, and they always seem to do their mowing at peak hour - when we are on our way to work, or coming home in the afternoons!

I had to stop on one occasion to confront one such idiot because his drive-on motor mower put a rock (and hole) through the metal door of my car, his excuse was he's not liable because he was doing it for the community, i.e. he should be excused because he is doing it for free! If he killed or maimed a passer-by is it okay because he is doing community service?

This unfortunately is a typical behaviour of these do-gooders in the Cook Islands: If it’s for the “community”, therefore for the “public good”, it must be good thing, i.e., desired and needed by all of us.

Even if you don’t want it, need it, or like it, too bad for you!

Wake up scruffy ninjas; some of us actually value the things we have worked hard for, and we will do anything to preserve the valuable senses we were born with, especially our eyesight!

Second to our homes, our cars are our most valuable asset but these idiots with weed-eaters either don’t own a car, nor a home, or a brain, which is why they don’t give a damn that the rocks flicked by their machines puts dents in our vehicles. My car has more pock marks on it than the face of Mars.  

Village cleaning team leaders: please give some of your workers more training in safe mowing practices and teach them to show courtesy to people using the road.

Contrary to your beliefs, it is motor vehicle drivers who have the prime right to use the road and not all of us motor vehicle drivers give a flying fig about a mowed roadside (by all means pick up the man-made rubbish).

Yours in frustration,

Owner of a nice car – once

(Name and address supplied)

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Dear Editor, Once the regulatory arrangements to the recent amendment to the Transport Act have been finalised visitors from Australia, New Zealand, US, Canada, UK and the EU will not be required to obtain a Cook Islands drivers licence, if they have the appropriate category licence from their home country.  

If you don’t have a licence to drive a scooter (and that is a separate category in many countries) then you will still have to obtain at least a Class A Cook Islands licence. There will obviously be a revenue loss and the estimate of $250,000 of lost revenue is the best estimate at this stage.

In 2012 around 33,446 driver’s licences were issued by the Cook Islands Police.

 

Total  Issued

Other

Total

33,446

9722

21,768

1956

Total International

28,990

9209

18,861

920

Total Cook Islanders

4456

513

2907

1036

Whilst the numbers in the table appear quite precise there may be an issue with the classification of Cook Islanders, the 4456 may include people who identify themselves as Cook Islanders but reside elsewhere.

Category B licences are the ones issued for driving a normal vehicle, whereas AB incorporates both vehicles and motorbikes/scooters.   If the new law were applied in 2012 there would be an immediate revenue loss of approximately $184,000 as those people with an equivalent B class licence would not be required to get a Cook Islands licence, they could still choose to get one, but they are not compelled to get one.

There would be visitors whose foreign licence would be equivalent to the Cook Islands AB, that is, the right to drive a car and a motorbike/scooter.  Assuming that 3000 of the 18,861 international visitors (16 per cent) held that equivalent licence then a further 60,000 would have been lost. The estimated loss in 2012 becomes a figure approaching $250,000.

The cost of removing around 12,000 people from the queue comes at a cost of foregone revenue of around $250,000.

To recover that money from the same group we would need to focus on the registration of rental vehicles.   There will need to be a discussion with the industry on how to best recover the lost revenue in this manner. 

While the average visitor stays for about eight days, it is more than likely that the average rental period would be around a week. Simply put, the foregone $20 from the driver’s licence change could be recovered from an increase in the daily rental charge of a vehicle of around $3.

Registration data the BCI from 2012 outlines that there were around 400 rental vehicles and around 600 motorbikes/scooters over 100 cc, the annual current registration charges are $164.50 and $125.50 respectively.

Distributing just the lost driver’s licence revenue to rental vehicles solely would require an increase of around $450 per annum, which, of course, is a significant increase for those in the industry.  Distributing the remaining $60,000 across the motorbikes/scooters would require an increase of approximately $100 per annum – probably not as significant, but for a company with a large fleet these are all substantial costs, and there may need to be some form of scaled or transitionary increase to ease the burden of the cost. 

These issues were bought up with industry earlier in 2013 when these changes were first mooted, but MFEM and the Police will shortly commence a dialogue with the industry to discuss the issues further.  I should add at this stage that Government has made no decision on this. This is just simply the commencement of a discussion.  I hope that clarifies the issue for your readers.

Richard Neves

Financial Secretary

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Dear Editor, It is so disappointing to hear and read Henry Puna’s poor excuse on why he called a “snap election”.

Using the 50th year birthday celebration of our country as an excuse is, in my opinion, deceitful and lies.

Simply put, he lost the confidence of two of his Government Members of Parliament whilst Parliament was sitting.

He panicked believing that his Government will be defeated in the bills and supplement budget that were tabled in the House, so in haste, he rushed to the Queen’s Representative demanding for Parliament to be dissolved.

E te iti tangata, “aue teia tu pikikaa e te tivarevare o Enere Puna tei karanga aia e ko te tumu i kapiki ia ai te Snap Election (ikianga viviki) no te mea, kia oronga ia tetai tuatau no te Kavamani ou i te akateateamamao no te 50 anga mataiti o ta tatou Kavamani”. Ko te tumuanga tikai koia oki kare e rua mema Parimani o tana Kavamani i tae ana i teia au ra ki te Paramani, no reira kua ngaro pu ua (panic) te manako o Enere Elvis Puna i te irinakianga e ka ruti tana au piira ture (bills) e te akapapaanga moni iti (supplement budget) no te mea kare ona numero no te akamana anga i te reira, oro viviki atura aia ki te Mono o te Ariki Vaine a Tom Marsters kia kapikiia tetai ikianga viviki. Eaa ra aia i kore ei i akakite pu ua i te tika?

Aria ana ra, kia akarakara atu tatou ki roto i tetai au mea tei tupu e pera tetai au mea kia rave aia i mua ake ka oro ei aia ki te Mono o te Ariki Vaine.

Eaa aia (te Leader e te Prime Minister o teia Kavamani) i kore ei i tono i tetai tangata kia kimi e te arumaki ia George Maggie no te mea tei Tupapa ua aia te ngai e noo ana?

Eaa tetai tangata i kore ei i aere ki te ngai to’anga pairere i te tiaki e te apai mai ia Teina Bishop ki te Paramani mei tona terepu mai ki Viti i te Ruirua ra 15 o Aperira?

I taua Ruirua rai te  Paramani i akamata ai, kua kite te Kavamani e kare a Bishop raua ko Maggie i aere mai ki te Paramani, eaa i reira tetai  tangata i kore ei i aere ki Aitutaki i te aravei i teia nga tangata? Ko Parai Minita tikai, te koi nei aia i tetai moni maata i te mataiti, eaa aia i kore ei i rere atu ki Aitutaki i te tuatua kia Bishop raua ko Maggie. Rere ki Aitutaki i te aiai Ruirua oki mai i te popongi Ruitoru no te Paramani i te ora tai. Simple and common sense.

Te tumu I karanga ei au e kua panic pu ua a Enere, no te mea kua kite tatou e ko Teina Bishop ua te Mema Paramani tei kopekope pu ua i te patoi i te moni tei rave ia a te Grey Power. No tona tangi i tona taeake koputangata ia Mama Nancy kua akaoki aia i te moni a teia Mama mei roto mai i tona ua uaorai pute. Pera katoa kua turu pakari a Teina kia taui ia te ture kia rauka i te akaokiia teia au moni tei rave ua ia (penei e keia teia i na tetai reo ei). Eaa i reira a Teina ka akatupu ei i teia orureau kia kore teia au ture e pati ia, ko teia te mea umere?

Tetai, kua kite katoa tatou e kua turu pakari rai te Tua Patoi kia akamana ia te ture o te moni a te Grey Power no te mea ko ratou katoa tetai tei akakite pu ua i to ratou marekakore i ta te Kavamani i rave ki teia au Metua pakari. Eaa i reira a Enere i kore ei i uriuri manako atu ki te Tua Patoi no te paati (pass) anga i te reira ture? Rereua i te mataku e te kamakura i te akakore i te Paramani-sad?

Kua kitea katoa ia mai e kare te Caucus katoatoa o te Kavamani i kite i teia tei tupu no te mea kua tae atu te Mema Paramani o Mauke Tai Tura ki te Paramani I te Paraparau ra 17 o Aperira i mua ake i te ora tai i roto i tona suit raua ko Taunga Toka. Manuia e kai tetai i tunu ia, kua kaikai raua e kua oki ki te kainga. E mea katakata tikai teia.

No reira e te iti tangata, ko ta Enere i akakite mai ki runga i te avata teata, e smokescreen na te papaa ei, ei tangaro atu i te tumu tikai i kapiki ia ai te “snap election”.

Aue te Akaroa i teia tu tivarevare.

Te tangi teia a te kuriri.

(Name and address supplied)

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Dear Editor, Regarding the article in CINews of April 19, 2014 regarding the statement from the Minister of Finance...

The Minister indicates his desire to reimburse monies raided from Grey Power members accounts in December 2013.

Does he have serious intent? Or is this yet another fabrication to divert attention from the illegal money grab.

The amended Finance Act proposed for Parliament would appear to be very optimistic by the Minister as the likelihood of him being again in Parliament (after July9) is at best unlikely.

The generosity of Teina Bishop reimbursing a Grey Power member is to be applauded. Why not more CIP Parliamentarians?

During a recent protest at Parliament a Grey Power member advised the assembled MPs the devastating effect the money raid had on her daughter’s university studies. The raided monies were intended to pay her daughter’s examination fees and on-going tuition costs.

The woman was reduced to borrowing from friends and family to ensure her daughter could continue at university.

The Government has been advocating for Cook Islanders with qualifications to return home.

Is the above any support or encouragement for this to happen?

Stu Maxwell

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With last week’s snap election call, political parties, hopefuls and observers have kicked into high gear in the lead-up to the July 9 vote. Here are some of the latest details:

Local businessman and conservationist Stephen Lyon - a key individual behind the creation of the Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary – is seeking nomination from the Democratic Party in Ngatangiia. He said a date for a runoff vote which could include as many as five candidates in the constituency was slated to be confirmed yesterday. The Demo party’s general secretary Eddie Drollet has confirmed Hugh Graham, President for the Cook Islands Sport and National Olympic Committee (CISNOC), has been nominated to run in Mauke. Apii Piho, who previously stated his intentions to run in Manihiki under the Demo banner, is currently waiting for his confirmation of his nomination from the Demo Party. Piho lost the Manihiki seat to Prime Minister Henry Puna in the 2010 general election. In Tupapa, Drollet said the Demo party is currently looking at potential nominees. The successful candidate will be up against a now Independent George Maggie and a yet-to-be announced candidate for the Cook Islands Party. CIP president Rau Nga said the party is currently in the process of confirming candidates, with “a few already in place”. Local businessman Brett Porter says electoral reform will be one of the hot-button issues in the upcoming election. Porter’s comments follow a recent push by Aitutaki MP Teina Bishop for reform. The businessman said a serious proposal at reforming the makeup of Parliament shouldn’t be pushed onto voters prior to an election. Instead, an election should be used to confirm to voters that the new government will seriously address the issue. “I think that is going to be the single biggest issue that will get people votes,” he said.
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Prime Minister Henry Puna’s office has refuted the claim by rogue MP Teina Bishop, who said he’s been thrown out of the Cook Islands Party along with Tupapa MP George Maggie.

Yesterday, Puna’s office issued a statement saying the two MPs have not been “evicted” from the party.

“The party executive and caucus did meet last week to shed light on the events but there was no ‘turfing’ or sacking.  Maggie was present and can confirm he was not sacked,”

Maggie could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The statement made reference to events last week, when Bishop and Maggie were not present in Parliament. At the time, Puna said he was ‘very disappointed” not to see them in the house and supporting the party.

“The Government has always been driven by the team making collective leadership decisions,” reads the statement. “Bishop knows that and was never denied the opportunity to make his views known to the team, as a whole.” 

Also commenting on the matter, CIP party president Rau Nga said the MPs said the two MPs have been suspended by Puna, barring them from serving at the party level.

"They have not been sacked,” he said. “We can’t sack a candidate ... it would have to happen from the constituency.”

Regarding the duration of their suspension, Nga said it depends on the party’s upcoming executive meeting, which he said will likely be held next week.

Defending his decision to dissolve Parliament, Puna’s advisor Trevor Pitt issued the following statement:

“Given the proximity to the next general election, the dissolution of Parliament was the best way to allow Government’s future plans to be broadly supported by a fresh mandate from the people. 

It was simply exacerbated by the actions of Bishop and Maggie, who did not turn up for the Parliamentary sitting on Tuesday 15 April.  Both members knew that Government required everyone on board.” 

“Our work in Parliament at that time was very important – doing the very things that both these members had wanted to do.  We were amending the tax law, passing the Supplementary Budget, and setting directions for 2015. 

“For the two members not to show up and support their team mates in the House was totally mystifying – even to the point of being interpreted as a hostile act. 

“But only those two members – disappointingly, a Cabinet Minister and the Parliamentary Whip, who is responsible for rallying the caucus – can explain their thinking.  So far, none of what has been explained makes sense. 

“If their rationale cannot be explained, surely no one expects the Queen’s Representative to act in an irresponsible manner.”

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Cabinet starts off the week with a fresh face after the swearing in of Aitutaki Member of Parliament Mona Ioane last week.

With the resignation of former Education and Tourism Minister and fellow Aitutaki MP Teina Bishop from Cabinet, Prime Minister Puna was faced with the decision in filling the vacancy.

He is expected to make an announcement on a potential re-allocation of Cabinet’s portfolio responsibilities “in due course”, said advisor Trevor Pitt.

Puna begins the week in the Netherlands, where he will be attending the Global Oceans Action Summit, being held in The Hague from April 22-25. 

The meeting “... is aimed at up-scaling the investment potential and benefits of cooperative partnerships” with regards to oceans resource management, said Pitt, adding Puna’s travel costs, as well as accompanying Marine Park Steering Committee member Kevin Iro, are being met by the Dutch Government.

Health and Internal Affairs Minister Nandi Glassie departs Rarotonga for Sweden on Sunday, where he will be attending a population and development conference being organised by the United Nations, the European Parliament, and the Swedish Parliament.

The conference is a follow-up to the 47th Commission on Population and Development, recently held in New York City and attended by Glassie.

According to his office, expenses for both trips are being covered by conference organisers.

Finance Minister Brown said he will be celebrating Easter before attending the opening of the new Mangaia harbour and commemorating Anzac Day later in the week.

Deputy Prime Minister Teariki Heather will be travelling to Auckland with his wife on personal leave, returning the following Sunday.

Agriculture Minister Kiriau Turepu will be in country attending to his ministerial portfolios.

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Members of Parliament Teina Bishop and George Maggie were thrown out of the Cook Islands Party late last week, prompting the rogue politicians to start their own political “movement”.

Bishop – who resigned from the Cabinet of Prime Minister Henry Puna last Wednesday – said he learned of his eviction from the party shortly after a CIP caucus and executive meeting held the following day, which was attended by Maggie.

First elected in 1999 to represent Amuri/Arutangu/Reureu in Aitutaki, Bishop said he was the longest serving CIP MP currently sitting in Parliament.

On being sacked, he said, “We’re not going to cry over it”.

The former Education and Tourism Minister was quick to point out he was not starting a new political party, but starting a “movement based on principles and policies”.

“It’s out of my disappointment with the CIP machinery,” he said. “The basic principles of the party have been ignored.”

Bishop said the movement is not looking to form government, but intends to support the government of the day with a condition that it “adheres” to its set of policies.

Along with Maggie, the two MPs are in the midst of refining an eight-point policy plan which will include a provision to eliminate the taxing of all pensioners – whether paid locally or by the government of New Zealand.

“They have done their time, they have contributed to the building of the nation,” said Bishop. “That’s the principle”.

With spending levels by the government up to $200 million annually, he said there should be more than enough money being collected by the treasurer to prevent the taxing of pensioners.

“Why are we even thinking about going into their accounts?” he asked.

Bishop slammed the Government for its handling of the pension file, saying its policies are a betrayal of the CIP’s principles towards seniors and have been crafted by “those who are not culturally sensitive, those who have not read our history”.

The budding movement was further described as a leaderless collective, where members “will be leaders of their constituencies” and decisions made by “consensus”.

“They must come with an attitude of service to the people,” he said. “I don’t care what their name is, their gender … it’s not about their personality, it’s about the underlying principles.”

As for Maggie, Bishop said: “He’s my man … he has a heart for the people.”

He previously ruled out any possibility of crossing the floor and joining the ranks of the Democratic Party, which is in line with the position of leader Wilkie Rasmussen, who said no deal has ever existed to have the two MPs come under the Demo umbrella.

Bishop  - who says he has the full support of his constituency – confirmed he will be running in the upcoming general elections, which have been scheduled for July 9.

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