Claims Manhiki landowners got special treatment
A Cook Islands businessman who made a police complaint over the Manihiki payout says the landowners got special treatment because they are from the prime minister's constituency.
A Cook Islands businessman says landowners on Manihiki have been given special treatment because they are from the prime minister's constituency.
George Pitt has made a police complaint following a government payout to the landowners who had earlier threatened vandalism if they were not paid.
In August, the Prime Minister Henry Puna agreed to give the landowners about US$26,000 from the government's contingency fund - a reserve of public money meant for emergencies.
Earlier the government said the payment was made after the landowners threatened to vandalise the two solar plants on Manihiki.
Mr Pitt told Mary Baines both the landowners and the prime minister should be charged.
GEORGE PITT: They said they would cut off the power supply and there was talk they would damage the solar installation which is brand new. And this is all on record. And the government pandered to these people. And you need to take into account that Manihiki is the prime minister's constituency, where the prime minister got in by 78 votes, and from a small very constituency. So he is just pandering to his constituents, I would go as far as to say he is just buying their vote for the next election. They have no right to do what they did. What they did was unlawful, it was illegal, it was just an embarrassment. It's just not acceptable, that kind of behaviour. To use that as an excuse to give them money to go shopping while they were here on the island to celebrate the 50th year anniversary, that would never happen anywhere else.
MARY BAINES: So you went to the police with your concerns about this and you made a complaint. What was the police's response to you?
GP: Well I haven't heard anything from the police yet. I mean, that's normal (laughs). I am a concerned citizen, I laid that complaint like anybody has the right to lay a complaint. Because the government has now started to smudge this whole issue. But the fact of the matter is there has been some corruption that needs to be exposed. And hopefully the police will do their job, arrest some people, charge them, and hopefully they will be thrown in prison.
MB: So you say a criminal offence has been committed because of the threatening behaviour, threatning to deface public property, and also it was aided and abetted by the prime minister.
GP: Because he paid out - they applied to the court to release some money that has been set aside for land compensation and the judge said no, we haven't even sorted out who the land owners are and who should be paid and who shouldn't be paid. And so within hours these people got their money so they could go shopping before the boat left to go back to Manihiki.
MB: Are you concerned that this situation of giving this money to the land claimants of Manihiki will set a precedent that this is going to happen again?
GP: Yes, of course it will. You know, we have got this great 60 million dollar Te Matavai project which is dealing with our infrastructure, mainly water. And in parliament the government tells landowners there will be no compensation. Somehow the prime minister finds reason to give his constituency compensation for land to use, despite the fact there was probably crown land already on that island that could have been used. It's just a vote buying exercise that is so blatant.
In a statement from his office, Henry Puna expressed surprised that the early payout had sparked a police complaint.
Mr Puna will not yet comment on the claim, except to say he stands by the urgency of the decision that Cabinet needed to make to diffuse an unstable situation in Manihiki.
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