3 Dec 2004

Cook Islands official seeks speedy Manihiri hearing

2:06 pm on 3 December 2004

The Cook Islands' Chief Registrar of Electors, Terry Hagen, says he hopes a hearing can be arranged quickly in the challenge involving the Manihiki seat held by the Prime Minister, Dr Robert Woonton.

The electoral petition in Manihiki must return to the High Court for a further hearing after the Court of Appeal decided in favour for the petitioner, the Cook Islands Party candidate Henry Puna.

Justice Kenneth Hingston is to return from New Zealand to preside over the hearing, and Mr Hagen says he is hoping to know soon when this can take place.

Mr Hagen says indications are there could be one or two days of hearings in Rarotonga, and possibly two days more in Manihiki.

He says in the best-case scenario Justice Hingston may be able to complete hearings next week.

"The worst would be that we would have to prolong it until after the Christmas break and the beginning of the new year. If we can get justice Hingston to return and resume next week, and we don't have to travel north, then obviously that would meant that the process is reduced quite significantly and a decision could probably be reached pretty quickly."

Terry Hagen.