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PM Brown vows to change law

Monday 23 January 2023 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in National, Politics

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PM Brown vows to change law
Prime Minister Mark Brown in Parliament making his 2021-22 budget speech last year. Photo: CI NEWS/21060843

The new Cook Islands Parliament has still not held a sitting, despite its general election taking place more than five months ago.

It will not sit until March at the earliest.

The country is waiting for the outcome of the election’s final petition hearing, a situation Prime Minister Mark Brown said was an anomaly.

“It makes a mockery of the separation of powers. Parliament should be able to sit once MPs have been confirmed and gazetted by the chief electoral officer,” Brown told RNZ Pacific.

“Any petition or challenge is a matter for the judiciary to deal with separately outside of parliament and parliament should be able to conduct its business despite petitions being heard.”

Brown said, once parliament is in session, he will look to remove the clause which prevents it from sitting until all petitions are resolved.

Five electoral petitions and one application for a recount were filed at the High Court in August 2022.

The pending petition decision was filed by Cook Islands United Party candidate Margharet Matenga, alleging there were up to eight voters who voted in the Titikaveka electorate despite being ineligible to do so.

Matenga lost to Cook Islands Party member Sonny Williams by three votes in the August 2022 general election.

A call-over hearing on the petition was held in the High Court in Avarua in December, after Williams’ appeal to have the petition struck out was denied.

Justice Colin Doherty, who oversaw the call-over hearing, directed the Court Registrar to set a date for the hearing of the petition on the first available date after February 24, 2023.

Cook Islands News understands that it has been estimated that the matter might take at least five days.

This would mean if the first available date is February 27, 2023, and the Registrar sets that date for the fixture, and the hearing does take only five days, and the Judge is able to deliver a decision immediately, then the first possible date for Parliament might be March 6, 2023.

In the election, held on August 1, the ruling Cook Islands Party won 12 seats and is able to govern with the help of three independents.

The Democratic Party won five seats, the United Party took three and the One Cook Islands Movement gaining one seat. Both main opposition parties lost a seat between the preliminary count on August 1 and the final count on August 10.

  • Additional reporting from RNZ Pacific

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