8 Aug 2003

Cook Islands Attorney General refers MPs case to High Court

4:31 am on 8 August 2003

The Cook Islands attorney general and Deputy Prime Minister Dr Terepai Maoate is reported to have instructed the Crown Law Office to prepare an application for a declaratory judgement to be made in the High Court concerning the seats of two government MPs.

Several weeks ago a government audit office report alleged two MPs, Norman George and Paora Teiti, were earning two salaries - one as crown servants and another as Members of Parliament.

In the Cook Islands, an MP's seat becomes vacant if it is determined that they are earning a salary as a Crown Servant.

The audit report urged the Attorney General to file for an application for a declaratory judgement as to whether this was the case.

Dr Maoate has come under criticism for delaying the application to the High Court.

If the Court rules the seats of the MPs are vacant, this would result in by-elections in the two outer island constituencies.

There is speculation that if this happens, the government will call an early general election.