3 Mar 2006

Cooks PM says high commissioner in Wellington works against government

4:29 pm on 3 March 2006

The Cook Islands Prime Minister Jim Marurai says the High Commissioner to New Zealand, Robert Woonton, is among those driving attempts to bring his government down.

Both the government and opposition are claiming a majority in the 24-seat parliament after two government MPs, Piho Rua and Upoko Simpson, yesterday aligned themselves with the opposition Cook Islands Party.

However, Mr Marurai says his Cook Islands First Party, in coalition with the Democratic Party, and two new cabinet members lured from the CIP have a two-seat majority.

He says he was aware of moves to bring the government down in recent days, which involved luring Mr Simpson from Mr Marurai's own party.

"The drivers of the latest attempt are trying to buy him off - they have even got boatloads of goods to send to his island. It's Piho Rua, the developer Tim Tepaki and unfortunately our High Commissioner in New Zealand."

Jim Marurai says Piho Rua was unsuitable for a ministerial portfolio because of his background, which includes importing pirated videos.