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Cook Islands Party-led government critical of appeal ruling
5:32 pm GMT+12, 18/12/2018, Cook Islands

 While respectful of the rule of law, the Cook Islands Party-led government says it is extremely disappointed with the Court of Appeal decision on the Rakahanga election.
 
It says from the outside looking in, the decision could be characterised as usurping the democratic rights of the vast majority of Rakahanga electors, who at the June elections clearly expressed their confidence in and voted for Toka Hagai.
 
It now seems almost immoral and unreasonable that the losing candidate (Tina Browne) at the elections who polled less than half of the eligible votes should now be imposed on them as their representative, says the CIP government.
 
In addition, it claims there is a growing view that the court should have perhaps “punished” Hagai for the perceived wrongdoings but then referred the matter back to the voters of Rakahanga for determination as it is their democratic right and duty.
 
Deputy Prime Minister and deputy leader of CIP, Mark Brown, while congratulating Tina Browne on her “side-door” entry into Parliament, said he was greatly saddened at the fate of Hagai who had conducted himself and his campaign with absolute integrity and propriety.
 
He said he also felt for the people of Rakahanga whose democratic will had been “subverted” when they all knew in their hearts that what happened at the now “challenged” function on the May 24 – that it was clean and proper and, more importantly, was organised and carried out by all of them, and not by Hagai or his Committee.
 
Minister Brown says Browne will face difficult challenges in being accepted as the legitimate representative by the majority of Rakahanga voters.
 
“I am pleased however, that the court has directed the Police to undertake a thorough investigation into the complaint by the Democratic Party candidate of alleged treating by Hagai and his Committee on the 24th May. For I am confident of what the outcome will be - a complete exoneration for Hagai and his Committee,” said Brown.
 
Prime Minister and Cook Islands Party leader, Henry Puna also said, “My party was determined to run a clean campaign, and we did just that including our campaign in Rakahanga.”
 
Puna outlined that the complaint about the event of May 24 was inspired by all 34 CIP supporters in Rakahanga, and was organised by them, the food was provided by them and prepared by them collectively, and was shared and enjoyed by all of them at the event that evening.
 
“This fact is public knowledge in Rakahanga and surely this cannot be treating in any sense of the word,” added Puna.
 
The statement says a commentator has pointed to an interesting possibility - what happens if the police investigation exonerates Hagai and his Committee?
 
“Not on the balance of probabilities tested by the court or on the premise of beyond all reasonable doubt, but on the absence of any corroborating evidence? Will there be a recall of the decision? An apology perhaps? Or even a by-election?” asks the statement.
 
Puna said government will be undertaking a careful study and analysis of the decision by the court, and appropriate options mapped out to address any identified shortcomings or failures in the legal framework or process.
 
Puna stressed that it is business as usual for the government despite this minor setback, and that its focus will still be on providing stability and leadership to the country so that growth and prosperity for all will continue unabated and uninterrupted with the support of like-minded and committed Cook Islanders.

SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS


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