By Lisa Williams-Lahari - firstname.lastname@example.org
Cook Islands voters in Rakahanga may be heading back to the polls or creating history with Tina Browne as their new MP.
Appeal court judges have to choose whether a shock resignation from sitting MP Toka Hagai will take precedence over an appeal court decision, which is now pending.
Cook Islands lawyer Tina Pupuke-Browne says the resignation of Toka Hagai must not pre-empt the decision of the Court of Appeal in her petition appeal case.
The court of appeal completed its hearings late last week in the Cook Islands week and reserved its decision, after which the resignation announcement was made.
The court then ordered an interim stay of by-election process until more it decides on next moves tomorrow mid-morning (NZT).
A Cook Islands government statement today (Tuesday NZT) says Toka Hagai has confidence in the judicial system, but wanted to resign ahead of the final decision by the court of appeal to return the whole matter back to the people of Rakahanga for their final determination because he felt it's the right thing to do.
But the timing of his resignation, following the conclusion of the court of appeal hearing, has not impressed Pupuke-Browne, who says due process has to be completed and an appeal court decision on the petition verdict, handed down.
"I have to be careful what I say here, but what I can say is 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."