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Independent MPs say decision to join Cook Islands Party government was made by people

By Lisa Williams-Lahari -

The Cook Islands' independent MPs who chose to join forces with the Cook Islands Party (CIP) following the general election say it was a decision made by the people.

Cook Islands Party's vice president Mark Brown, One Cook Islands MP George Maggie, Independent MP Rose Toki-Brown, Incumbent Prime Minister Henry Puna and Independent MP Robert Tapaitau.

Independent MPs Robert Tapaitau and Rose Toki-Brown and One Cook Islands Party (OCIP) MP George Maggie pledged their allegiance to the Cook Islands Party last week when they were sworn in as cabinet ministers to the caretaker government. 

Tapaitau says the choice to join the Cook Islands Party ranks was always about the best deal for his people.

His constituent Penrhyn, also known by its traditional name Tongareva, is one of the most isolated Pa Enua communities in the Cook Islands.

He says the direction and choice was mandated from his voters.

"Tongareva's direction has always been to benefit Tongareva and the CIP provided that for us so that's the direction we took."

"It's about the people first... from Tongareva, what they say I follow. I will not dishonour my people by disregarding what they want."

Toki-Brown says her decision to join the Cook Islands Party caretaker cabinet was also made by her people.

The three new additions to the caretaker government have not been allocated specific portfolios yet, but Tapaitau is hoping to take on infrastructure.

"My background is a construction background. I've worked for a multi-million dollar company in Australia so I've seen things there we can use to better our roads, infrastructure and everything."

"I'm gunning for the Ministry of Infrastructure and I've put that forward so we'll see where this goes."

Incumbent Prime Minister Henry Puna says his party was keen to welcome the new independents and OCIP MPs into cabinet roles.

He says the clear winners on election night were the three MPs and the mandate from his party was to continue the stability of the last eight years.

"The mandate from the people was clear that they had some trust in these three... We wanted to acknowledge that and offer them positions that reflect that acknowledgement and the will of the people."