HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 570:29 June 2011

News Briefs

Freak winds strike
Rarotonga was battered last nights as winds reaching up to 80km per hour, in what the Met Service is describing as a ‘mini cyclone.’ Met Services Maara Vaiimene said today, last nights weather was caused by a cloud band that’s remained to the north of the Southern Cooks over the last 7days which is why the strong wind warnings were issued for the Southern Cooks. It’s understood that up until yesterday a low pressure system had developed in the cloud band, and at the same time, the high pressure system to the south is what caused the strong winds which last up to 6-hours. Aitutaki and Ngaputoru felt much of the heavy rain with Rarotonga feeling the full force of the 80km winds. It’s understood that the low pressure system now lies to the far south east of Mangaia who will today be feeling the strong winds but not as bad as the one felt in Rarotonga last night. Vaiimene says, there is a high chance of cancelling the strong wind warning within the next 24-hours and the weather has improved.

Netball Fundraiser
This Saturday, the national netball side will be running around the island to help raise funds for the upcoming Pacific Netball Series next month in Papua New Guinea. The national side will start running around the island from 7am ending at the market at 10am the latest. The national side will go up against last years reigning winner Fiji, and other pacific island countries, Samoa and Papua New Guinea. The side will also be selling food at the Telecom Sports Arena during the domestic netball competition this Saturday for the next 3-wks with the funds raised going towards the Pacific Series competition.

Maire Maeva Nui start date set
Friday 29 July has been set for the opening of the Constitution Celebrations. And the Ministry of Culture wants to rebuild the Maire Maeva Nui to its former glory - to a high level of interest and attraction, which was somewhat lacking last year. Although the political situation of 2010 had something to do with it, the annual Constitutional event didn’t seem to hold much spark. This year though, Culture Secretary Sonny Williams says he wants the Outer Islands to come back and join in the celebrations. Up to 40 participants from each of the islands is being considered. So far, there’s 10 teams confirmed (including Nikao, Avarua, and Arorangi) as well as visitors from New Zealand (2 kapa haka and an Army Brass Band), and performers from Denmark. The theme for this year is: “Akairo o toku matakeinanga”.

Te Kura Uira going great

The online learning programme supported by Telecom Cook Islands is going great - according to the Outer Islands students taking part in it. The programme - Te Kura Uira - is a pilot project involving three islands: Mitiaro, Nassau, and Rakahanga. The kids get on-line with tutors and communicate through Skype - getting the benefit of real time help over the net.

Cooks ahead with ICT Policy
The Cook Islands is well-ahead of many countries in the region in terms of developing policies on ICT, says a visiting expert. Jim Holmes, a consultant on communications technology, was a key speaker at a gathering of government departments yesterday, assisting ICT officials with policy development. The day-long session was coordinated by the Office of the Prime Minister, which has overseen the present national policy framework. Holmes says the policy work completed so far stands up well, and contains valuable directions to build on.

Crocombe resigns as Chairman of Tourism Board
Minister of Tourism Teina Bishop today announced with regret the resignation of Tata Crocombe as Chairman of the Tourism Corporation Board. He will be sadly missed but Bishop said we acknowledge his tremendous contributions not only to Tourism but to the people of the Cook Islands. Ewan Smith was appointed as Chairman to replace Tata and along with Theresa Manarangi Trott and Thomas Koteka, all 3 have been reappointed for a further term of 2 years effective as of today to provide continuity and stability to the Tourism Board. The Herald understands Tata informed the Board on Monday of his decision.-Minister for Tourism media release

Police Commissioner on Selection Panel
On the eve of tomorrow’s court hearing of the 13 people arrested and charged with various drug offenses, the Police Commissioner Maara Tetava is heading to New Zealand where he will be fulfilling a key obligation on the part of his Pacific colleagues. Tetava has the distinction of being one of the three members on the Selection Panel for the new Executive Director of the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police Secretariat. The Commissioner says there are six candidates shortlisted for the job. The rank of Director must be at Superintendent level, and has been served by Tony Annandale of the New Zealand Police. The position is funded by New Zealand Police and the Secretariat is located in Wellington. Tetava will be returning to the Cook Islands this weekend.

Frame backs up Solicitor General and opens door to court action
Constitutional law expert Dr. Alex Frame has backed up the legal views of the Solicitor General on the issues related to the standing of Norman George and has also raised the possibility of court action if the Parliamentary Privileges Committee rules and imposes a penalty against the Atiu MP for contempt. This week, in a 13-page response to SG Tingika Elikana, Frame outlines points of agreement and then expresses less certainty over the powers of Parliament because this issue opens a door for legal action through the court.
Frame, an oft-sought expert when it comes to interpretations and impacts upon the Cook Islands Constitution, was asked by Elikana to give opinions on the points the SG raised in a submission, last month. That submission was a bullet-pointed opinion to the Speaker of Parliament Sir Geoffrey Henry, on matters related to the failure of George to take the Oath in Parliament, last February. The request to Frame was made on the basis of the requirement for a Member of Parliament to take the Oath; and the extent of the powers of the Parliament to punish the Member for contempt.
Frame now largely agrees with the SG’s opinions to the Speaker, especially on points concerning the obligation to take the Oath. On three issues, Frame supports Elikana’s opinion that: Article 30 of the Constitution only prevents the Member from sitting or voting in Parliament until the prescribed Oath has been taken (it doesn’t affect the Member’s status as a Member of Parliament); Standing Order 31 (together with 32) enables a Member of Parliament to initiate a procedure for taking the Oath administered by the Speaker; and the terms of Section 9 of the Electoral Act require the existence of a wilful refusal to take the Oath – rather than vacating the seat of an unsworn member, who actually wants to take the Oath.
On the fourth issue, Frame is not so clear-cut – concluding that he is less certain over the opinion on the power of the Privileges Committee to vacate the seat of an elected Member of Parliament. The question as to the powers of the Parliament to punish contempt of Parliament “gives rise to considerable complexity”, he says in his 13-page response.
Noting references to a New Zealand authority, Dr. David McGee, Frame raises the uncertainty over how far the Parliament can be separated out from the authority of the Constitution – the very institution that prescribes the authority of Parliament. There are cases where intervention by the court on the basis of Constitutional rights has occurred – most notably in the Cook Islands Court of Appeal case in 1993: Robati v. The Privileges Standing Committee. Frame makes reference also to the broad range of persuasive judicial precedents from South Pacific jurisdictions where the supremacy of Constitutions “requires that the Courts concern themselves with actions of Parliament and its Officers where questions arise as to their consistency with the Constitution”.
“As is clear from the Robati case, a Cook Islands Court may certainly scrutinize action by the Parliament or its Privileges Committee for consistency with the fundamental freedoms in Articles 64 and 65 of the Cook Islands Constitution.”
This signal from Frame now provides some additional key guidance for the present Committee considering possible contempt on the part of George. Should the current Privileges Committee determine that in its view, the Member did show contempt, George has some comfort knowing that he can take his grievance to the Court.

Going up-market at the Staircase
Times are changing at the Staircase. The establishment is moving to a new level-up-market.
As from 10pm on Thursday you will not be able to get into the Staircase Restaurant unless you are over 20 years of age.
Owner Sisi Short told the Herald on Tuesday morning, this move is to bring a more “adult” look, feel and atmosphere to the establishment which has in the past been plagued by younger clientele with a less sophisticated outlook on life.
Families will still be able to enjoy a meal and show up until 10pm.
The new concept of “20 plus” clubbing will bring a more adultery feel to the establishment along with an upgrade of facilities a more responsible group would demand.
The décor will be upgraded along with the restaurant. Seating will be more comfortable settee type and there will be an experienced security team engaged who will interact with customers more. The standard dress code will still apply.
The entertainment will be designed to draw a more mature clientele who will be more generally well behaved.
At Thursday’s launch, drinks will cost just $2 from 10pm-11pm and thereafter, $3 for cosmopolitan cocktails. There will also be spot prizes.
The Staircase now has two managers. Tekau Herman (Chef) manages the kitchen staff while Sharon Howarth manages service staff.
Islands nights will still be on Thursdays and Fridays. A feature of Saturday night dining will be a demonstration of how to prepare a local dish.
Sisi has come up with a new slogan, “Experience Culture at Staircase Restaurant.”

Audit reports to incorporate responses by government agencies
The Audit Office has advised all government agencies that it has put in place a new system to record and present their responses to Management Audit Reports.
According to Part III, section 32 of the Public Expenditure Review Committee and Audit (PERCA) Act, government agencies are required to provide a response to the Director of Audit within 14 days of receipt of the Management Audit Report.
In the past, responses to the Management Audit Report have been provided as an additional, stand alone document and tabled at Parliament as such. The Audit Office is now proposing that responses to the issues raised are incorporated as part of the Management Audit Report. Both the issues raised by Audit and the responses by the government agency will therefore be presented as one document and tabled at Parliament as such.
Logistically this will require government agencies to provide their responses in electronic format to the Audit Office. Audit will then incorporate the responses as part of our Report. The Report including the responses will then be distributed to the recipients listed on the cover page to the Report. Audit believes by incorporating the responses, the Report will be more meaningful and useful to the recipients.
Audit say they have already trialled this new approach with the Ministry of Education and found the process successful.

Simply coffee
Coffee Confessions has it
Lattes and Flat Whites are the two most popular choices of customers at the mobile coffee dispenser, “Coffee Confessions” parked right in the centre of town.
Operators Seth Lobb and Louisa Jesse have parked their mobile business in the space between Fisher’s Black Pearls and the Energy Centre. They started up just two weeks ago.
When the Herald visited early Wednesday morning and sampled a Flat White, Louisa was tending to customers. Seth still has his painting business.
It’s a good position given the potential foot traffic. It has been quiet but business is now picking up says Louisa. Most of their customers have been tourists. The coffee’s to go but some tables and chairs are provided for those who want to put their feet up. The coffee is sourced locally however, Louisa says they do not stock Atiu Coffee.
What made them set this business up? According to Louisa, it’s small, simple and a one or two person job. There are just three other mobile coffee dispensers but one is now fairly permanently sited at the Punanga Nui Market.
Their hours are from 7.30am to 2.30pm Mondays to Fridays. Ideal for people on their way to work.
Louisa says they hope to be at this location for at least a year.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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