10 May 2002

Cook Islands prime minister's party merges with New Alliance

2:45 pm on 10 May 2002

The four members of the Democratic Alliance have merged with the Norman George-led New Alliance Party .

The four are the prime minister, Dr Robert Woonton, Minister Peri Vaevae Pare and MPs Robert Wigmore and Sir Pupuke Robati who teamed up with the New Alliance and Cook Islands Party in February to form fourth coalition government.

Our correspondent in Rarotonga, Florence Syme-Buchanan, says the merger will be a blow to the opposition Democratic Party who has kept an open door policy in the hope the four would return.

"The merger closely follows allegations that Cook Islands Party leader and coalition partner Sir Geoffrey Henry was making a bid to take over prime ministership from Doctor Robert Woonton. Sir Geoffrey said the allegations were absolute rubbish and the coalition government remains strong. Meanwhile, New Alliance leader Norman George has dangled a carrot in front of the opposition offering under secretary positions and other promotions if they join government. George said in parliament that there are a number of vacancies in government for under secretaries, but didn't specify for which portfolios these are. George offered further temptation to the opposition to join up saying the door is open wide for you and the table is laden for you to share"