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Cooks heading for internal strife

Published: 6:17PM Friday June 13, 2008 Source: ONE News

Eight of the Cook Islands' 15 Ariki or High Chiefs say they are dissolving the government and taking over leadership.

The House of Ariki is a parliamentary body composed of chiefs, that has a purely advisory role. They have not had political power for more than a century.

"Basically we are dissolving the leadership the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister and the ministers," says Makea Vakatini Joseph Ariki.

Bruce Mita, a Maori New Zealander, is spearheading the split which opponents say has no legal standing.

"Your time is gone your job now is to look after your tribes and your people and your families ot to run our country we do that now," says artist Tim Buchanan.

The decision has split the House of Ariki with half of the Chiefs against the attempt to diossolve government.

"What the Ariki is doing now, is illegal very illegal. It is a sad day for myself and other Ariki for this to happen," says Pa Tepaeru Ariki, Paramount Chief.

The breakaway Ariki are being driven by Mita, who has been holding secret meetings to help them get control of the Cook Islands' natural resources.

The former Sydney funeral home director claims he represents futures traders in New York and says he could make billions of dollars for the Cooks.

"This Mita person is a foreigner. Why is the House of Ariki listening to this man?" says Pa Tepaeru Ariki.

The government certainly is not.

"The government of today would not recognise what has taken place today," says Terepai Maoate, Deputy Prime Minister.

Despite this there are warnings for the Cook Islands government to listen more to its traditional leaders

"It's time they show a bit more respect to the house of Ariki," says Pa Tepaeru Ariki.

This flexing of Ariki muscle could be a sign of more to come.