The Cook Islands Party (CIP) government is set to continue in power after securing the support of the two independent and One Cook Islands party seat holders who on Thursday were sworn in as Cabinet ministers.
Independent winners from the recent election, Rose Toki-Brown and Robert Tapaitau, and One Cook Islands movement’s George Maggie have filled the three vacant Cabinet ministerial post in the CIP caretaker government.
The positions were left vacant by former Cabinet ministers and deputy prime minister Teariki Heather, Health minister Nandi Glassie and Agriculture minister Kiriau Turepu, who lost their seats in the June 14 election.
The appointment and swearing-in of the three new ministers, which was done at Government House before Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters, gives CIP a majority of 13 seats to continue as government.
The party had only 10 seats after the declaration of successful candidates on Thursday last week but proved a winner in horse trading to snatch a dramatic victory from the jaws of defeat.
The Democratic Party, which held the upper hand with 11 seats, were tipped to form a government but failed in their negotiations with the candidates holding the balance of power.
Despite the new appointments, the caretaker government is yet to decide the portfolios the three new ministers will be given.
CINews believes Toki-Brown, a former Cook Islands Party MP, is likely to take over the deputy prime minister’s role, Tapaitau is tipped for Infrastructure minister and Maggie is likely to become Agriculture minister.
Prime minister Henry Puna said they would be deciding on the portfolios in coming days.
“I appreciate it’s my call, but in the spirit of team work and the spirit of unity, we will get together as a team and talk about portfolio allocation,” Puna said.
“For me, it’s identifying the strengths and skills of each of them and see how best they fit in with the portfolios that are available.”
Puna said the swearing-in of the new ministers represented the mandate and the wishes of the people in their constituencies.
“Government has been reconfirmed.
“We have sworn in three new ministers and these are really the people that matter as the results of the election,” he said.
“We think the people have spoken very clearly at the elections and we focused our efforts in talking to these three important people and it’s paid off.
“We didn’t just talk to them, we have given them full acknowledgement of the importance that they play in the election result and offered them these ministerial posts.
“I’m so pleased they have responded positively and not just them, but also their committees because they have consulted with them very intensively (before taking the offer).”
Toki-Brown, who retained the Teenui-Mapumai seat in Atiu which she won under the CIP banner in the 2014 election, said she was merely fulfilling the wishes of her people.
Tapaitau, who won the Penrhyn seat in his maiden election, said he was excited with the challenge ahead of him.
“From the beginning I said, whichever side provides the best for Tongareva, and that’s the way I go. It’s been hectic task weighing up both options. I’m ready to start working hopefully Monday and get things rolling.”
Tapaitau, whose late father Tepure Tapaitau served as an MP and Cabinet minister for the Democratic Party and the Cook Islands Party, said he was eyeing the Infrastructure minister’s role as his background suited the position.
“Action Man” Maggie said he was ready to serve the people of his constituency and the Cook Islands in his new role as Cabinet minister.
The Tupapa Maraerenga MP said he had been born to CIP supporters, adding there was no secret to where his allegiances would lie when talks about coalition government started.
Maggie said the ministerial job would not stop him from carrying out the community work he is known for.