COOK ISLANDS PRIME MINISTER HENRY RESPONDS TO LIFTING OF CAMPAIGN RESTRICTIONS 

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GOVERNMENT OF THE COOK ISLANDS
Prime Minister's Office
Rarotonga, Cook Islands

MEDIA RELEASE April 27, 1999

COOK ISLANDS PRIME MINISTER HENRY RESPONDS TO LIFTING OF CAMPAIGN RESTRICTIONS

The Cook Islands Prime Minister, Sir Geoffrey Henry, says while he does not accept the decision made by Chief Justice Peter Quilliam to lift restrictions on campaigning, he is willing to abide by the justice's decision.

Yesterday, Chief Justice Quilliam declared the Electoral Amendment Act, which restricted the political campaigning for this year's General Election in June to five weeks, invalid and inconsistent with the fundamental rights and freedoms of Cook Islanders.

The Chief Justice's decision followed an application filed by the opposition Democratic Alliance Party, or DAP, seeking a judgment on the Electoral Amendment Act, which they believed breached fundamental human rights and freedoms protected by the Constitution.

Sir Geoffrey said, "There is no doubt in my mind, irrespective of what has been said by DAP and the other opposition party, the New Alliance Party or NAP, and by the Chairman of the Political Review Commission, or PRC, that what we enacted reflected the wish of not just the 82% of those interviewed by the PRC, but the views of several others as well."

The PM said he believed that there are many people who earnestly think that all the hoopla, costs, tensions and divisiveness created by political campaigning can be managed, and ought to be managed, rather than the current free-for-all, un-Cook Islands way of politicking.

"I believe that democracy in its true meaning will survive nonetheless," said Sir Geoffrey.

Sir Geoffrey said that perhaps the lesson learned in this instance is to be more precise in the formulating of any piece of legislation that seeks to promote the wishes of the majority as against the Constitutionally-provided rights of individuals and individual groups.

"This never has -- and never will be -- an easy undertaking. However, the Government in power has the responsibility and the duty to seek that fine balance between communal and individual rights to ensure that our community proceeds in a lawful and orderly fashion," said Sir Geoffrey.

Meanwhile, Crown Law says it has received instructions from Sir Geoffrey not to lodge an application to appeal the decision of Chief Justice Quilliam.

Clarification, however, is being sought by way of a memo to the Chief Justice filed earlier this week, as to his declaration that section 106A is invalid and unenforceable. Section 106A not only includes reference to the definition of "election activity" and "campaign period," which was the subject of the application, but also includes definitions of other terms used in the Act which were not questioned by the Applicant. Furthermore, the Chief Justice only refers to the "relevant part of S106A" in determining the issues.

It is not, therefore, clear from the judgment whether the whole of section 106A is invalid, or whether it is just the relevant parts of section 106A.

However, the decision clarifies for any future government, that this type of legislation is not the answer, and that an alternative solution will need to be found.

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