The protest coincided with the by-election petition filed by Democratic Party’s Nandi Glassie against winner Te-Hani Brown (Independent) for the Tengatangi-Areora-Ngatiarua seat. The petition, which alleged bribery, was heard yesterday and Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams has reserved his decision on the matter.
Tavioni said the protest was apolitical adding it was merely to exercise their freedom of speech on election matters.
“It’s about reinforcing our Cook Islands right to vote, to elect our MP. The court shouldn’t be doing that for us,” Tavioni said.
“This is not political, this is not CIP (Cook Islands Party) or Demos (Democratic Party) protest. It’s a people’s protest. We are protesting, and doing this demonstration on behalf of all Cook Islanders, of their right to vote and be counted.”
Tavioni also mentioned the Rakahanga election petition where elected MP Toka Hagai lost his seat to Demos leader Tina Browne last year after he was found guilty of “treating”.
“When you talk about Rakahanga (election petition) and it was over a plate of food, that’s an insult because food is our culture and I don’t think anybody will be stupid enough to give their vote for a plate of food. How cheap is that?” she said.
“They definitely didn’t give their vote over the plate of food (in Rakahanga). They gave their vote because they wanted that member, that person to represent them.”
Tavioni said through the peaceful protest they were trying to convey their message that “if there is a problem in the election system, it should be taken back to the people”.
“Furthermore when it comes to our electoral constitution, I don’t know what is exactly there and I’m sure all Cook Islanders don’t even know exactly what it is about. Now because what’s going on (election petition), we need to be more aware. We need to understand so people know what it means and what it stands for.
“People must have the right to elect their member for their constituency. It’s our democratic right.”
In court, CJ Williams said it was good to see people exercising their freedom of speech on the matter.