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DPM’s comments ‘disgraceful’

Thursday January 03, 2019 Written by Published in Politics
DPM’s comments ‘disgraceful’

Deputy prime minister Mark Brown’s criticism of the Court of Appeal’s judgement which made her the new MP for Rakahanga is disgraceful, says Democratic party leader Tina Browne.

In Saturday’s CINews, Brown described the court’s ruling regarding the removal of votes from those found to be “treated” from CIP candidate Toka Hagai’s total only, as “unfair and undemocratic”.

He questioned whether some of those who had been “treated” had in fact voted for Browne.

Hagai was found to have given free food and drinks, including alcohol, to 26 people at his rally in the lead up to the June 14 general election.

The Court of Appeal’s judgement saw 23 votes struck off his 39-vote total, making the final outcome 24 votes for Browne and 16 for Hagai.

“It is disgraceful that a Minister of the Crown (representing the Executive and Legislative branches of government) is criticising the judiciary, the other branch of government,” said Browne on Monday.

“This is not the first time Mark Brown has criticised the Court of Appeal judgement. He made similar comments in earlier publications of CINews.

“The Cook Islands Constitution makes provision for the separation of powers under which the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) are kept separate to prevent abuse of power. Each branch is given certain powers so as to check and balance the other branches.

“Mark Brown as a minister is part of the Executive. As an MP, he is also part of the legislative branch. He is now criticising the judiciary, the other branch of government. This is shameful coming from a minister of the Crown.”

Browne said the Court of Appeal in its judgement on her election petition had interpreted the law as it existed today. It had interpreted s89 (treating) and s98(3) of the Electoral Act.

“The Court of Appeal found on a number of grounds that there was no defence to treating.

“This was particularly so because parliament in 1998 expressly amended the 1993 Act (where provision of food and drinks under custom was permitted), so that provision of food or drink of any kind was not permitted at any time prior to polling.

“In other words, the legislative branch in 1998 purposely intended that the provision of food or drinks at any time prior to voting was not permitted.

“Thirdly, the legislative branch provided in s98 of the Act as to what would happen if treating was found to have been established. S98(3) of the Act sets out the process. That is what the law says and that was precisely the process that was carried out,” said Browne.

“Mark’s comments in respect of the judgement as “unfair and undemocratic” are irresponsible and unacceptable.”

Browne said the deputy prime minister, as a minister of the Crown, should be proud of the Cook Islands judiciary.

“We are the leaders in our region of sound judgements in the Electoral Court. Judgements of our Court of Appeal are being followed by the courts in our region.”

The deputy prime minister also claimed in Saturday’s story that a police investigation recommended by the court would show that no actual treating had taken place on Rakahanga.

However, Browne also warned him about “interfering” with police investigations.

“The direction from the Court of Appeal is very clear,” she said.

“History tells us that previous directions from the court to the police during the term of this government has not moved forward.

“Mark should make sure that he does not prevent the investigations being conducted as directed by the Court of Appeal.”

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