First election petition in Cook Islands heard in court

RAROTONGA, 15 AUGUST 2018 (RADIO COOK ISLANDS NEWS) – The first of the petition hearing started last Friday in the High Court in Rarotonga before Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams.

The case before the courts is the Rakahanga petition by Democratic Party candidate Tina Browne against Cook Island Party’s Toka Hagai.

Democratic Party candidate Tina Browne’s allegations are that voters on Rakahanga were bribed with food and alcohol. She has also alleged that Prime Minister Henry Puna during his visit promised a public holiday for civil servants on June 14 and 15.

The trial started with Browne taking the witness stand. She told the court that the evidence she had submitted in her brief to the court were true.

Browne in her evidence has claimed that workers of the island council were not at work on the June 14 and 15.

She said there was a copy of a speech given by CIP candidate Toka Hagai regarding the public holiday.

During cross examination by counsel for the respondent –Browne stated that election day was not a holiday.

Browne agreed that she had given a loan of $200 or $300 to a relative on the island but had not collected the amount back.

She also denied giving passage to people and their children to Rakahanga for the purpose of casting a vote.

Other witnesses also said their evidence in the brief they had provided was true. One witness told the court his fare to the island of Rakahanga was paid by Tina Browne and her husband.

Another witness said his fare was paid byBrowne’s father.

An island council worker Taunga Tuteru told the court that often workers would sign the time book and go home leaving the executive officer to round the people to come to work.

He also said people island council workers could have been working on June 14 and 15.

The trial will continue with Prime Minister Henry Puna to take the witness stand.

The recount of votes for the Pukapuka-Nassau constituency filed by Democratic Candidate Willie Katoa against Tingika Elikana of the Cook Islands Party will also be heard in the high court .

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