High Court proceedings on whether the Atiu petition should be allowed to continue saw associate minister of Justice Tingika Elikana representing Te-Hani Brown, the Independent Tengatangi-Areora-Ngatiarua candidate.
Brown’s resignation from her seat last week has been seen as an attempt to force another by-election in the constituency and to stop the Atiu petition lodged by Nandi Glassie.
CI News sent an email to Solicitor General Stuart Baker on Friday last week, seeking comments and clarification on the matter but had not received a response when this edition went to print yesterday.
Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams ruled that the petition hearing be allowed on the basis that any allegations of corruption must be permitted to be heard in the interest of justice.
CI News understands that Chief Justice Williams also questioned in cleared court with only counsels present why the associate minister of Justice was representing a private individual in a high court matter involving an election petition.
The current code of conduct for Members of Parliament states that: “Every member shall -
(c) Exercise any influence or authority obtained from Public Office only to advance the public interest and where any potential and actual conflict of interest arises whether in the member’s private, financial, pecuniary or any interest the member shall be required to declare that interest and take any steps to remove the conflict or withdraw from the particular process of transaction.”
CI News has been told that a conflict of interest could exist as all judges are contracted by the Ministry of Justice and appointed by Cabinet. As associate minister of Justice Elikana also has a direct, formal link to the Ministry of Justice.
It is also being asked whether it is ethical for an associate minister and sworn MP, who is expected to have a degree of independence, to be acting as legal counsel to a private individual in the High Court, particularly on political cases that could have implications for Cabinet.
Whether Elikana has a current practising certificate to enable him to appear in court as counsel has yet to be confirmed.
Sources say Elikana’s representation of Brown is similar to a previous case when, as secretary of Justice, he appeared in court as counsel for private individuals in an adoption case.