Calls for Cooks MP to be suspended
The Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna says he will not suspend his deputy Teariki Heather while he is being investigated by the Financial Intelligence Unit.
The Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna says he will not stand down his deputy Teariki Heather while he is being investigated by the Financial Intelligence Unit.
This comes after calls by the Democratic Party's deputy leader Tamaiva Tuavera for Mr Heather to be suspended, saying the investigation against him is very serious.
While the FIU has not revealed the nature of the complaint that led to the investigation, Mr Tuavera says it involves the purchase of a piece of bobcat equipment by Infrastructure Cook Islands, or ICI, of which Mr Heather is minister.
TAMAIVA TUAVERA: Back in 2012 the ICI decided that they needed a bobcat to deal with the rubbish at the rubbish dump, the new rubbish dump that was built. So it was then decided that ICI would buy one, purchase one. So they put out a tender to purchase. Two companies put their name - none of them was T & M Heather (Teariki Heather's company) and four days before the contract was given out, T & M Heather's name appeared on a piece of paper in a different coloured ink. It went that ICI had identified and taken a picture of the bobcat they wanted in New Zealand. So T & M all of a sudden got the tender. And they believe the bobcat that they asked for is not the bobcat they received, somebody received the new bobcat for themselves and gave them the old bobcat as if it was from New Zealand.
MARY BAINES: OK. So that's what is being investigated by the Financial Intelligence Unit?
TT: Yes. Also he is now the third minister from this government that has been investigated for different things. The first one was Teina Bishop who resigned and the other one is Moana Ioane who was stood down for bribery during elections. And at that time the Prime Minister said to him you have to stand down, because you are getting investigated. So we have said to the PM then why didn't you do the same thing with minister Heather and ask him to stand down.
MB: Why do you think he hasn't been suspended while the investigation is going on?
TT: Well as you know the two political parties the two main ones at the moment are playing with numbers. At the moment they have 13 and we have nine. And with the two from OCI makes us 11. So the numbers are so fickle that the PM, maybe he doesn't want to get on the wrong side of DPM Heather, he might just quit the party or that kind of thing. It's a numbers game right now.
That was the Democratic Party's deputy leader Tamaiva Tuavera speaking to Mary Baines.
In a statement, Mr Puna says no removal action will be taken in regard to Mr Heather's responsibilities, because that would not be warranted.
He says comparison to other cases is irrelevant.
Mr Puna says he is not surprised by the Opposition's calls, and says the Democratic Party is clutching at political straws to manufacture instability in the government.
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