Parliament has voted to amend the Cook Islands Constitution to allow for recommendations on the Immigration Bill to take effect.
On Tuesday, the Constitutional Amendment Bill was tabled and passed with more than the required two-third majority.
The amendment intends to repeal clause(s) in reference to child adoption. It will take effect after a 90-day period, starting on Tuesday.
Until then, the Immigration Bill is “paused or stood down”.
The final report on the Immigration Bill was tabled by Minister Vaine “Mac” Mokoroa, who is the chair of the select committee responsible for the Bill. It included a number of recommendations.
The report was adopted but constitutional amendment is needed in order to allow for all recommendations to take effect.
Speaker Niki Rattle said the amendment to the Constitution was a historic moment.
MPs from both the Government and Opposition voted for the amendment. Two MPs were absent from Parliament during the vote by division.
“It’s been many, many years since the Constitution has been amended so this day will go down in the history of Members of the Parliament who sit in this House today,” the Speaker said on Tuesday.
“I wish to thank every member of the (Immigration Bill) committee and Members of Parliament for this wonderful, overwhelming support in achieving what we set out to do with this Immigration Bill and with our amendment to the constitution.
“The rest of the journey (with the Immigration Bill) will be after 90 days.”
After the tabling of the report this week, select committee member and Opposition leader Tina Browne said they received many submissions during consultations in Rarotonga and the Pa Enua.
Browne said majority of Cook Islanders wanted to be recognised as Cook Islands Maoris as opposed to Polynesians.
“We are Polynesians but the definitions of Polynesians also include others in the Polynesian area.”
Browne also said the Minister for Immigration should not have absolute discretion over the awarding of permanent residence (PR).
However, she said if there was some discretion with the Minister then there should be criteria’s and some boundaries set.
“The committee appreciated the fact that if we left it open and no one responded, PR was granted.
Vaine Mataroa, the chair of the committee, thanked everyone who contributed to the drafting of the Immigration Bill and the report.