Browne has confirmed that she will be formally drawing the attention of the Queen’s Representative, His Excellency Sir Tom Marsters, to Article 14 (7) of the Constitution.
The article says:-
“14.(7) The Queens Representative, acting on the advice of the prime minister, may, by instrument under the Seal of the Cook Islands -
“(b) Suspend a minister during the period of any investigation or inquiry into the conduct of that minister.”
Browne says the intention of this provision is that a person cannot hold a ministerial post if he or she is under investigation.
This brings to the fore the announcement by the prime minister Henry Puna and deputy prime minister Mark Brown that the prime minister intends to appoint Toka Hagai from Rakahanga and outside of Parliament, as the seventh minister.
While the article in the Constitution specifically addresses the suspension of a minister during an investigation, it is equally clear that the PM cannot appoint a person as minister if he is under investigation.
Hagai, who was found guilty in the Court of Appeal of electoral treating, is currently under police investigation, as directed by the Court of Appeal judges.
The police have confirmed that Hagai is under investigation and the file has been referred to the Crown Law office.
“Appointing him as the seventh minister not only undermines the decision handed down by the Court of Appeal, but such an appointment is in breach of the Constitution,” Browne says.
“The attention of the QR will be respectfully drawn to the appropriate clause in our Constitution and a call made that he upholds our law, if in the event that PM Puna carries through with his wish to appoint a seventh Cabinet minister.”
Meanwhile government is believed to be considering Hagai’s appointment but will wait for the outcome of the police investigation.
- RM/Democratic Party release