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Pageant battle reaches court

Monday September 28, 2015 Written by Published in Local

Behind the scenes of the crowning of a new Miss Cook Islands, a storm has been brewing over the legal validity of her title, and the two separate Miss Cook Islands committees.

 

The original organising committee, Miss Cook Islands Pageant Association (MCIPA) and the recently-formed Miss Cook Islands Association (MCIA), are currently in a legal dispute over the filing of a petition to axe MCIPA.

MCIPA have already crowned their winner, Felicia George, but MCIA are contesting the committee and hoping to title their own winner as the official Miss Cook Islands, and as the contender for Miss Pacific 2015.

MCIA’s Mere Short filed a petition at Rarotonga High Court to have MCIPA wound up as a society, which could mean stripping George of her title, and possibly the titles of every Miss Cook Islands since 2009.

Following on from the Judicial Settlement hearing between the two competing Miss Cook Islands parties last week, the Winding Up petition against MCIPA is set to be heard in Court later this year. 

This is the petition that has been supported by the affidavit of Prime Minister Henry Puna.

In response to the petition, MCIPA’s lawyer Wilkie Rasmussen has filed a notice of opposition.

He wrote that MCIA was established with the intention of competing against MCIPA for the right to crown Miss Cook Islands, and Miss Pacific.

He also wrote that there was no meeting called to properly elect the executives and office holders of MCIA and therefore it is an invalid organisation.

The ‘two-horse’ race began at the annual general meeting called by MCIPA, under the presidency of Clee Marsters, on March 30 at the Islander Hotel.

It’s reported that at the meeting MCIPA president Clee Marsters pointed out that only paid-up financial members were eligible to vote. 

An agreement was then made to ‘delay’ the voting process to enable all members present at the meeting to pay their annual subscriptions to make them paid-up financial members of MCIPA, in turn, enabling them to vote. 

A new executive committee, led by Dianna Clarke-Bates was appointed. 

Shortly after being voted in, the new Executive Committee under Clarke-Bates’ presidency began basic housekeeping with the bank account and records. 

“This was when we realised that MCIPA was in fact a dead organisation and that the recently-held AGM was a farce!” explains Clarke-Bates.

MCIPA did not hold an annual general meeting in 2013 or 2014 and in doing so, she says they breached their own requirements under the original 2009 Constitution.

Clarke-Bates says she sought legal advice on the issue and it was recommended that a new organisation be formed, with an improved constitution, and so Miss Cook Islands Association Inc was born.

“The decision to form MCIA was done in good faith and in good faith the new organisation also assumed the Miss Pacific Islands 2015 bid on behalf of the struck off association (MCIPA),” Clarke-Bates says.

“I don’t know for certain, but I have to assume that it was the previous elected MCIPA who then went and did whatever they needed to do to get MCIPA back on the Register of Incorporated Societies and thereby resurrected MCIPA.”

However, MCIPA say when Ms Clarke-Bates and her followers showed up at the AGM, none of them were paid up members under the constitution and therefore should not have been allowed to vote. 

Without suspending the provisions of the constitution which ensures one must be a paid up member 90 days prior to the AGM to be a voting member, those at the meeting agreed to allow persons to pay on the day and vote. 

“This was a breach of the MCIPA constitution which resulted in the appointment of the new  President,” MCIPA say.

They say the second unconstitutional act on the night was when the newly “elected” president stopped election of office bearers and stated that she wished to appoint persons to her committee that she could work with, in breach again of the MCIPA constitution. 

“That made it two unconstitutional acts in one day by the unconstitutionally “elected” committee.”

 Furthermore, MCIPA say their committee was stripped of experienced members and replaced by “family and friends”. 

“Sometime after the election it emerged that a family member had now been appointed Miss Cook Islands and that Teuira Napa was no longer Miss Cook Islands.”

While MCIPA has restored itself at the Registry and has continued business as though it were never struck off, they say the unconstitutionally formed rival association now seeks to strike off MCIPA. 

“This can only be classed as hypocrisy; to accuse others of being unconstitutional when you yourself have been elected unconstitutionally.”

Given what has taken place, MCIPA say they find themselves having to defend against the charges, and is considering a similar winding up petition of the new association on the grounds that it was unconstitutionally formed by an unconstitutionally elected committee passing themselves off as MCIPA.

“In the meantime, a new Miss Cook Islands 2015 has been elected and she is a young lady we can all be proud of and who has been confirmed by the Miss Pacific Islands board as the representative of the Cook Islands.” 

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