HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 544: 30 December 2010

Wikileaks features Cook Islands
The Wikileaks website is better known for releasing highly sensitive and confidential documents relating to the US government and other governments but recently Wikileaks released some information relating to the Cook Islands government.
The information released concerns the sacking on 3 March 2005 of former Prime Minister Robert Woonton from his post of High Commissioner to New Zealand by Prime Minister Marurai over a claim by Marurai that Woonton was involved in a plot with others to topple him.
The release is set out below. Much of the information is already known so readers can make their own mind up as to who passed this information on to Wikileaks and what purpose was behind Wikileaks making this information public.

Summary --- 1. (SBU) On March 3, citing involvement in a plot to topple him from Government, Cook Islands Prime Minister Jim Marurai sacked Dr. Robert Woonton as High Commissioner to New Zealand. Marurai succeeded Woonton as Prime Minister in December 2004, and Woonton became High Commissioner as a political accommodation. While Marurai's government has averted a test of its confidence for now, a new threat is likely to emerge in July, when Parliament must convene to approve a new budget. End Summary

Woonton Sacked for Plotting to Topple Government -----2. (SBU) On March 3, Cook Islands Prime Minster Jim Marurai dismissed Dr. Robert Woonton as High Commissioner to New Zealand. Marurai told Radio New Zealand that Woonton, ousted Minister of Cultural Development Piho Rua, and Wellington-based property developer Tim Tepaki had attempted to bring down Marurai's Cook Islands First Party (CIFP)-led coalition government. Meanwhile, opposition leader Sir Geoffrey Henry claimed on March 2 that his Cook Islands Party (CIP) had the support of thirteen seats in the twenty-four member Cook Islands Parliament, as the result of the defection of two MPs from the governing coalition: Rua (an independent) and Upoko Simpson (CIFP). In 2005, Marurai had dumped Rua as Minister of Cultural Development and Tourism. Developer Tepaki is generally believed to favor CIP.

3. (C) At a March 3 press conference confirming the decision to sack Woonton, Foreign Minister (and CIP member) Wilkie Rasmussen explained, "In taking this decision, the Government of the Cook Islands believes that Dr. Woonton has not acted in the best interest of the Cook Islands, and as such no longer enjoys the confidence of Cabinet to continue in the capacity of Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand." He continued, "The very nature of this appointment necessitates a position of political neutrality in both New Zealand and the Cook Islands." According to First Secretary Sonya Kamana (protect) at the Cook Islands High Commission, Woonton told her he had not done anything improper. However, Kamana confided to Poloff that Woonton should not have been as involved in politics as he was.

Instability represents more of the same --- 4. (U) While the sacking of Woonton has been characterized by the government and media as a "failed coup," the event is just the most recent sign of instability extending as far back as the June 1999 elections. Since becoming self-governing in 1965, there have been nine Cooks Prime Ministers: four of these since the Democrats came to power in 1999.

5. (SBU) Following September 2004 elections (see reftel), a series of petitions delayed a final outcome for three months, including one concerning then Prime Minster Woonton's narrow majority. After a recount, the high court ordered a by-election, and Woonton had to step down from office as Prime Minister. He was subsequently named High Commissioner to New Zealand after he declined to stand in the February 2005 by-election. (to be continued next issue)

By Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 463 10 June
- World famous activist assisting residents
- Budget will decide if residents prosecute Government over landfill
- Forestry project sucking Mangaia dry
- Budget 2010 – fiasco or disaster?

Copyright 2006 Cook Islands Herald online . All rights reserved.