10 Apr 2003

Surprise at Cook Islands parliament secrecy about reform debate

3:48 pm on 10 April 2003

The spokesperson for the Cook Islands Group for Political Change says she's surprised by parliament's decision to hold a closed session to discuss amendments to the constitution.

Elizabeth Ponga, who spearheaded a petition calling for political reform, says parliamentary debates on the issue should be open because they affects everyone.

Parliament was suspended yesterday while MPs went into a closed session to hear the proposed changes by lawyers Iaveta Short and Mike Mitchell.

The two are responsible for drafting the proposed amendments.

Closed or in-camera sessions are recorded but not transcribed for Hansard and cannot be accessed by the public.

Ms Ponga says political reform in the Cooks is a sensitive issue.

"Political reform should be made transparent in every stage from now on and that means if parliament is going to debate political reform then by all means let the people hear them so that they can make their own judgment on what is actually taking place in parliament."

Elizabeth Ponga.

The prime minister, Dr Robert Woonton, said the closed debate would give the opposition time to mull over the reform issues.

Parliament is expected to hold an open debate on political reform over the weekend.