22 Jul 2003

Cook Islands speaker declines ruling on vacant seat question

11:11 am on 22 July 2003

The Cook Islands Speaker of Parliament is refusing to declare the seats of MPs Norman George and Paora Teiti vacant, saying he believes it is not his duty to do so.

Dr Pupuke Robati says he can only declare a seat vacant if a member dies or if an MP has broken the law.

Recently, the Audit Office said Mr George and Mr Teiti were receiving payments as Crown employees and salaries as MPs which is contrary to Cooks laws.

The speaker says that he cannot declare the two seats vacant until he is informed that they have been disqualified.

However, under the electoral act, the speaker can declare seats vacant for a number of reasons and if unsure he can seek legal advice on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General, Dr Terepai Maoate, has instructed the crown law office to see if there is anything in the constitution that could clear Mr George and Mr Teiti.