Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna will step down, and his deputy Mark Brown is expected to replace him.
Puna made his announcement on Tuesday (CIT), during a sitting at Parliament House. His retirement expected to happen in coming months at the time of the elections.
“I rise today to announce my decision to commence a process of succession in new leadership for our country,” Puna told Parliament.
“This is not a farewell speech. But I want to acknowledge my wife.”
Puna said the steps involved to implement his decision has taken months to put together.
He also paid tribute to a former mentor and constituency manager Paa Enua of Manihik.
“I pay tribute here to the late Sir Geoffrey Henry, in who I had been shown the respect, to allow a tradition for those younger, motivated and insightful to step forward and serve at the highest level.”
“I do want to extend my heartfelt appreciation firstly to the people of Manihiki, the home of my heart, and the source of profound support over many years since I first entered this house in 2004.”
Despite the current economic pressures on businesses, Puna is extremely proud of his ministers, health workers and volunteers who have worked together to ensure the well-being of Cook Islanders.
“Sadly the global pandemic presented by the Corona Virus has set us back - there’s no escaping from that reality.”
“But all of us, the Cook Islands can be proud of where we are today. We’re locked into a predicament but we’re bound together to get free of it. Many have contributed to elevating the pressures of the Covid-19 threat, and continue to work tirelessly to keep us safe.”
“As recent events have shown us, the risk of dropping our guard on protective measures is too high a price for us to pay.”
“We need to stay vigilant and preserve our health and our safety.”
Although the two new Covid 19 cases identified in New Zealand has caused doubts among some locals, however, businesses still want NZ tourists to return, he says.
Puna is not going to rest on his laurels - he’s already planning for the next task ahead.
“As of yesterday my candidacy to serve the Pacific region has also been lodged. My official nomination to head the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva, Fiji will be on the agenda, for the consideration of all the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum.