Why lawyers aren’t rallying

Thursday December 27, 2018 Published in Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

John Scott’s letter in CINews on December 22 challenging the legitimacy of the present government proceeds on the basis of his interpretation of Article 14 (3) (b) of the Constitution, set out in his letter in the Cook Islands Herald of 28 November.


Mr Scott opined that the motion of support for the administration brought in Parliament by deputy prime minister Mark Brown on September 28 needed not less than 13 votes in favour if the prime minister and his Cabinet were to survive. Not having obtained that majority, Mr Scott asserts the present government is no longer legitimate.

Article 14 (3) (b) provides that the appointment of the prime minister is terminated if parliament passes a “motion in express words of no confidence in Cabinet or if Cabinet is defeated on any question or issue which the prime minister has declared to be a question or issue of confidence.

The test is not one of the government having to demonstrate its support from the majority of Members of Parliament. Rather, it is for the opposition to defeat the government by the required majority.  There must be a motion which has the express words “no confidence in Cabinet”. No so such motion was put. Accordingly, Article 14 (3) (b) has no application to the circumstances of September 28.

I suspect the principal reason fellow lawyers are not rallying in support of Mr Scott, is not timidity or an unwillingness to speak out, but rather because they do not agree with him.

Brian Mason

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