Cook Islands’ prime minister gives himself 17 portfolios

Mark Brown’s multiple ministries prompt opposition to suggest PM lacks confidence in his cabinet

The Cook Islands’ new prime minister has allocated himself 17 portfolios in the country’s government.

Aside from the premiership, Mark Brown is the minister for foreign affairs, immigration, finance, energy and renewables, police, and telecommunications. He also holds responsibilities for marine resources, seabed minerals and natural resources, superannuation, and the country’s outer islands, among other portfolios. Brown is also the country’s attorney-general.

The opposition leader, Tina Browne, told the Cook Island News the portfolio allocations suggested the PM lacked confidence in his other cabinet ministers.

“The new PM says he’s ‘excited with the potential of his cabinet’ and then gives himself a staggering 17 portfolios, which is a huge signal just how much confidence he has in the potential of his cabinet colleagues,” Browne said.

It’s anticipated Prime Minister Brown might delegate some of his responsibilities in coming months.

Brown, the member for Takuvaine-Tutakimoa since 2010, came to power this month following the resignation of Henry Puna, who stood down after nearly a decade in office to contest the post of secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, essentially the Pacific’s chief diplomat.

The Cook Islands is a self-governing associated state, part of the Realm of New Zealand. The Cook Islands is fully responsible for all internal affairs, while New Zealand has carriage of defence and foreign affairs.

All Cook Islanders are New Zealand citizens and the Queen is the country’s head of state.

With its borders sealed for months, the Cook Islands has remained Covid-19 free throughout the pandemic.

Brown has said he is hopeful of being able to open quarantine-free travel with New Zealand by December. A travel bubble between the two countries was mooted for as early as July, but had to be delayed because of a coronavirus outbreak in Auckland.

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