Party backs legislation proposing reform

OCI leader Teina Bishop. Picture: COOK ISLAND NEWS

RAROTONGA – One Cook Islands leader Teina Bishop says his party fully supports the tabling of the Constitution Amendment (No 29) Bill 2014.

Bishop says tabling the bill would ensure concrete action towards political reform takes place. He says OCI supports the introduction of the bill in parliament, as the local community would then have to be consulted as a part of the select committee process.

A commission of inquiry into political reform in the Cook Islands was carried out in 1998. Iaveta Short, Ron Crocombe, and John Herrmann conducted the inquiry. The subsequent report stated 13 of its recommendations should be given priority.

However, the abolition of the overseas-based seat in parliament, the reduction of the parliamentary term from five years to four years, and changes to the parliamentary superannuation scheme were the only recommendations adopted.

If passed as it stands, the bill would see the number of seats in parliament reduce from 24 to 20.

“I want people to know that our focus is on the voting population of each constituency, not the general population,” says Bishop.

“Three representatives for one island with a small voting population is not fair – It is not fair for democracy.”

Bishop says tabling the bill would be better than holding another commission of inquiry into political reform in the Cook Islands, as was recently suggested by both the Cook Islands Party and the Democratic Party.

“The 1998 commission of inquiry and their subsequent recommendations are not out of date. The principles are still the same, there just happens to be less people here now” says Bishop.

The former member of parliament says the main issue is the cost of running parliament. He says the government’s personnel costs have “sky-rocketed” by $11 million (US$7.6 million) since 2008 and claims they are now costing the taxpayer $52 million (US$36 million) a year.

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