He quit his seat last Thursday afternoon after the Court of Appeal completed its hearings and reserved its decision. The court granted an interim stay on a by-election. Late yesterday aftertoon Browne said the judges were having a conferenc call to decide whether the stay would be made permanent or uplifted. Hagai’s resignation is seen by some commentators as a political game of chess, aimed at ultimately ensuring the seat stays in CIP hands.
The appeal was against the decision of Chief Justice Williams in the petition brought by Browne against winning Rakahanga CIP candidate Hagai in the general elections, held on June 14.
In a media release from the Office of the Prime Minister, Hagai said he was “very concerned” at the allegations of wrong-doing against him, and the negative reflection this was having on the integrity of the Rakahanga seat.
He felt the only way to resolve the matters was to place the matter back into the hands of the people of Rakahanga through a by-election, the release claimed.
“While I am committed to the rule of law, and have confidence in the judicial system, it is my strong view that this matter should be referred back to the people of Rakahanga for final determination,” Hagai said.
“That is why I had no hesitation in resigning the seat, and placing my trust and integrity in the hands of my people.”
Questioned whether he would change his mind if the decision were to be in his favour, he said, “I am committed to my resignation and will see that through because it is the right thing to do.”
Asked for comment on the OPM press release on Monday, Browne said as the matter was currently before the court, and as the court was considering its decision, it was not appropriate for her to comment.
“After the court’s decision is released I will be in a position to comment. Toka Hagai should do likewise if he has any respect at all for the Court of Appeal.”
However, Browne was a little more forthcoming in an interview with Auckland-based journalist Lisa Williams-Lahari yesterday, saying Hagai’s resignation must not pre-empt the Court of Appeal’s decision in her petition appeal case.
Browne told Radio 531pi that due process had to be completed and an appeal court decision on the petition verdict handed down.
“What I can say is that the court process has to be allowed to get to its conclusion. You can't go to court and have a hearing and then when you suspect that maybe things are not going your way, you then decide to resign.”
“If it was a genuine resignation it should've been done weeks ago.”
Complex political manoeuvring by both parties is expected to follow the court’s decision. Some commentators told CINews that depending on the outcome and with the help of yet more vaka-jumping, Hagai’s resignation could even result in a new Demo Party government - an event the CIP will naturally be desperate to avoid.
In her original petition, which was dismissed by the High Court, Browne, who lost the Rakahanga seat by eight votes, said Hagai had tried to sway voters.
She alleged he had treated voters to food and alcohol at a campaign meeting.
Her appeal sought to remove allegedly “tainted” votes from the total number, which could change the election result in her favour.