Cook Islands Demos Receive Foreign Donation To Challenge Election

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Caretaker Finance Minister questions source of funding

By Emmanuel Samoglou

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 24, 2014) – Accusations that the Democratic Party has received a $100,000 donation from a wealthy foreigner to assist with their election-related legal costs were brushed aside yesterday by Party President Sean Willis.

Finance Minister Mark Brown, of the current Cook Islands Party-led caretaker government, claims the Demos have a "sizeable war chest" to fund their court costs, and inquired this week about a rumour that the party has received $100,000 [SU$86,000] from a "foreign millionaire" to help pay for their petitions.

"That’s none of their concern, it’s not public money," said Willis, adding the Demos were equipped with cash going into the election.

Willis said the CIP caretaker government should worry about their handling of taxpayer money, not Demo money.

"They can speculate as much as they’d like but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s none of their business," he said. "They should be concerned about paying off their debts from the last election."

Willis once again brought up the $22,000 charter flight last weekend, which he claims brought the Prime Minister’s wife to Manihiki, and returned the PM, Rakahanga MP-elect Toka Hagai, and three CIP supporters back to Rarotonga.

"Those are things that Richard Neves (financial Secretary) should be concerned about," he said.

Yesterday, the Demos filed petitions in the High Court for both seats in Atiu, where Norman George and Eugene Tatuava were defeated by MP-elect Rose Toki Brown and incumbent MP Nandi Glassie, respectively.

A third petition was filed in Akaoa, where Demo candidate Nooroa Baker was edged by caretaker Deputy PM and CIP incumbent MP Teariki Heather by 16 votes.

On the petitions, Willis said: "We don’t want to waste the court’s time. We are putting in petitions that are winnable."

According to the Electoral Act, petitions filed with the courts must be accompanied with a fee of $1000, and the court sets security costs at an amount not less than $5000.

Additional costs can include flight expenses for hearings in the outer islands.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, Radio New Zealand International reported that ‘The Cook Islands Chief Electoral Officer is defending her decision to accept postal votes from New Zealand which arrived two days after the polls closed. .. But Chief Electoral Officer Taggy Tangimetua says although she was not notified of those votes until two days after the polls closed, they were received in time by a returning officer in Auckland and she used her discretionary powers to accept them.’]

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