24 Nov 2006

Judge criticises Cooks PM over cabinet appointment

2:56 pm on 24 November 2006

The Cook Islands Prime Minister, Jim Marurai, has been criticised by the Chief Justice in an election petition decision as the Democratic Party government strengthens its hold on power.

The Cook Islands Herald reports that the Chief Justice David Williams dismissed the petition brought by Cook Islands Party candidate George Pitt.

But the newspaper says the Chief Justice warned about Mr Marurai's behaviour when appointing Mr Pitt's election opponent, Kete Ioane, as a Cabinet Minister after the general election was called.

He said this came close to the borderline of electoral misconduct.

The decision means the Democratic Party maintains its 15-8 lead with two election petitions and a by-election in a tied seat still to be decided.

Parliament cannot meet until the petitions following the September elections are heard by the courts.

The Chief Justice said a statement by Mr Marurai at the time of the Cabinet appointment while not amounting to a breach of the Electoral Act, was most injudicious and inappropriate.