Henry Puna
Opposition MPs in the South Pacific nation of the Cook Islands tried to oust prime minister Henry Puna, pictured here in 2012 Getty

An attempted coup in the South Pacific nation of the Cook Islands has led to the intervention of the Queen's representative, and considerable political intrigue, in the tiny Commonwealth archipelago.

The trouble in paradise started when the opposition claimed that the parliamentary session last Friday (17 June) had not been ended properly by the speaker and so used the chance to vote to oust the prime minister Henry Puna.

MPs then voted Rose Brown as the head of government and tried to get her sworn in by the Queen's representative, Tom Marsters.

But finance minister Mark Brown accused the opposition of "treason" and that the attempt to topple the government was illegal.

"It is just a farcical and comical situation," he said.

"The opposition tried to destabilise the government. They have conducted a session of parliament without the authority to do so. They have tried to replace the prime minister using means which were illegal," he added.

But Marsters, who is a local politician, ruled that the parliamentary session had been properly ended and that installing a new prime minister was invalid, although it did spark criticism from the opposition which accused the Queen's Representative of failing to uphold his office with "dignity and honour".

Norman George told Australia's ABC News: "He is politically biased. He is an appointee of the government and his track record is not a very fair one. We are at his mercy and are suffering from the consequences."

It would be unlikely for the Queen herself to intervene, and usually it left to the local MPs in this part of the world to resolve any crisis. About 10,000 people live on the islands, which is a self-governing territory and has an association agreement, and a shared currency, with New Zealand.