Claims Cook Islands Prime Minister has been ousted

  • 22/06/2016
Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna (AAP)
Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna (AAP)

The Cook Islands is in political turmoil as the opposition coalition claims it has ousted the Prime Minister.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna was out of the country on Monday (local time) when a vote of no confidence was passed in Parliament.

The Opposition used what they believe was an error in standing orders from the week before, claiming the Speaker didn't close the last parliamentary session properly.

The opposition coalition had the numbers to topple Mr Puna, but it's yet to be determined whether the actions taken were within the law.

Local journalist Florence Syme-Buchanan told Newshub a number of government MPs were absent when the vote took place.

"According to their interpretation of the standing orders, Parliament should continue to sit and MPs should have turned up to the sitting of Parliament," she says.

Deputy Speaker Rose Brown, who crossed the floor in the vote, is being rewarded with the job of Prime Minister pending a decision by the Queen's representative.

However Finance Minister Mark Brown says if the Opposition continues the overthrow attempt, it is bordering on treason.

"There was a 'mock' Parliament that was held this afternoon with the proceedings being conducted by Norman George from the public gallery," Mr Brown told Cook Islands News.

"Any attempts by the Opposition to attempt an actual overthrow of government will be viewed seriously, as this could border on treason.

"I'm not surprised by this move as last night was a full moon and people do strange things at full moon," he said.

Ms Brown could be in line to take over from Mr Puna and become the Cook Islands' first woman prime minister, if the no confidence motion is deemed legal.

The Cook Islands has a special relationship with New Zealand, being self-governing in free association.

That means Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens, have New Zealand passports and use New Zealand currency.

The Cook Islands government is free to make its own laws and conduct its own affairs, but New Zealand remains responsible for defence and foreign policy.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand is following the situation in the Cook Islands, but it is ultimately a matter for the Cook Islands parliament to resolve.

Newshub. / NZN