COOK ISLANDS OPPOSITION PREPARING APPEAL

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By Charles Pitt

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (The Cook Islands Herald, July 29)—CIP Leader and leader of the Opposition, Sir Geoffrey Henry KBE and Henry Puna are preparing to travel to Auckland shortly to make preparations for the CIP’s submissions to the Appeal Court seeking to overturn the Queen’s representative’s (QR) actions on Monday 24 July 2006 in dissolving Parliament.

Why did the Prime Minister Hon Jim Marurai wait until after the Matavera by election on Wednesday 19 July 2006 before approaching the Queen’s Representative (QR) Sir Fredrick Goodwin in regard to dissolving Parliament and calling a General Election?

In an exclusive interview with the Herald on Tuesday afternoon, CIP leader Sir Geoffrey Henry believes the PM was prompted by two events which occurred on Friday 21 July 2006.

Firstly, CIP’s Kiriau Turepu was confirmed as the winner of the Matavera by- election after all votes had been counted. It was Turepu’s third attempt at winning Matavera and this time he won with a clear majority.

Secondly, that same day, Bishop met with the Demos and told them he was returning to the CIP, but would not vote against the PM if it caused a 12/12 situation in Parliament which would give the Speaker, Norman George, a casting vote (Sir Geoffrey said the QR would not accept that) and give cause for the QR to call an election.

Sir Geoffrey said Wilkie Rasmussen was also at that meeting and he too told the Demos he was going to the CIP.

Sir Geoffrey said it would have become very clear to the PM and the Demos that the CIP now had a clear majority to govern. The PM and the Demos therefore had to act quickly and before Parliament resumed at 10am on Monday 24 July 2006.

Sir Geoffrey said the PM and DPM Hon Dr Terepai Maoate went to see the QR on Saturday. Sir Geoffrey said Constitutional lawyer John McFadzien was present along with Mike Mitchell and Sir Geoffrey named a prominent local businessman as also being present.

Sir Geoffrey said it’s clear that the QR’s statement which was read out on Radio Cook Islands at 9am on Monday 24 July 2006, was drafted by McFadzien. He points to its tight, concise style, hard to fault legally, with a deliberate absence of any evidence as to meeting legalrequirements. Sir Geoffrey said it is also clear the PM’s statement which was read out on Radio Cook Islands at 11am on the same Monday, was drafted by Mike Mitchell. He said it bears Mitchell’s style.

Sir Geoffrey said he believes the lengths the PM and the DPM went to in order to stop the CIP and its coalition partners from becoming the government have less to do with any concern about a hung Parliament otherwise the QR would have gone to some lengths to satisfy himself fully as to the numbers situation. He believes it is more to do with retaining power and the sheer desperation showed it may have had an ulterior motive.

Sir Geoffrey said "There’s something that smells fraudulent about this."

"The General Election has nothing to do with instability, but about Jim and Terepai staying in office." Sir Geoffrey said.

"There’s something cynical about their actions," Sir Geoffrey said," it’s not as if there’s a constitutional crisis and it’s not as if Parliament can’t solve the issue."

"It has to do with desperation on the part of the PM and DPM," said Sir Geoffrey.

Sir Geoffrey pointed to the PM’s delay in referring Teina Bishop’s letter of resignation to the QR as deliberate and a clear example of desperation. In the end, the CIP drafted another letter which Bishop’s field officer Junior Areai hand delivered to the QR’s residence at around 9.40am on Monday 24 July. The letter had to be handed to a policeman manning the gate for passing on to the QR. The first letter had been submitted to the PM on Tuesday 18 July 2006.

Sir Geoffrey pointed to the requirements of Article 37, para (3) of the Constitution and refers to the lengths former QR Sir Gavin Donne went to in 1983 in order to satisfy himself that the then PM commanded the majority of Parliament.

Sir Geoffrey said the dissolution of Parliament was a very serious matter in terms of the ensuing ramifications for a nation’s internal stability and international reputation. It would require the QR to take all reasonably practical steps to ensure he was satisfied the PM had the majority. A reasonable step would be to also hold discussions with the leader of the opposition especially when the QR would have, as Sir Geoffrey puts it, been acutely aware of the closeness of the numbers.

Sir Geoffrey said he was never approached by the QR. In 1983 QR Sir Gavin Donne took all steps necessary when faced with a hung Parliament. He consulted with both sides of the House, setting, Sir Geoffrey believes, a model for future QRs to be guided by.

The QR said Sir Geoffrey, is about to appoint a caretaker government that will in effect be a minority government. "We go to a General Election to get a majority," said Sir Geoffrey, "Yet the CIP have the majority now."

Sir Geoffrey said that he along with Henry Puna and CIP lawyer Tim Arnold will shortly travel to Auckland to brief the QC who is to present their submission to the High Court. He did not name the QC but the Herald speculates it may be William Akel.

He said they will seek to have the submission referred directly to the Appeal Court to save time and if successful in achieving this, he thinks it could be some three weeks before the Court delivers its decision.

The CIP aim to seek a ruling from the Court on the legitimacy of the QR’s actions and the granting of a stay of proceedings by the Court to render the QR’s decision of no effect.

In the meantime, Sir Geoffrey says the CIP team has remained solid, determined and of a "single mind." He is proud of their commitment and focus.

Sir Geoffrey said he sympathised with Kiriau Turepu. If the Court case was to go against the CIP, Turepu would have to go through the process for a fourth time however he believes Turepu will attract a huge "sympathy" vote to the Demos detriment. July 28, 2006

The Cook Islands Herald: http://www.ciherald.co.ck/

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