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Albert Nicholas is free to carry on as a Cook Islands MP as he has not been convicted of any crime, the Clerk of the Cook Islands Parliament says.
Tangata Vainerere confirmed the newly sworn in MP for Avatiu-Ruatonga-Palmerston is facing an arrest warrant from New Zealand Police and is in what the clerk called “a little bit of a legal situation right now”.
Nicholas was due at the Manukau District Court on 26 March to face a charge of unlawfully taking a motor vehicle but he failed to appear, instead returning to the Cook Islands.
He was sworn in Tuesday as one of three new members of Parliament.
Vainerere said Cook Island regulations did not bar any member from Parliament even after being arrested.
“Our laws clearly say that when a member is convicted of any crime under the Crimes Act, then that member will be dealt with accordingly by the Privileges Committee of Parliament and they will be declared no longer Members of Parliament,” he said.
“So that's why he had to go through his swearing in on the presumption that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”
The clerk said he had not received any communication about the matter from Cook Islands Police or the Crown Law Office.
Nicholas, the former Internal Affairs minister, had an unforgettable last few months, including his up-and-down health.
He had come under scrutiny for missing Parliament after last year’s general election. Nicholas also made headlines for wrong reasons but now he is determined to clear his name and deliver in the job he has been voted for.
“At one point I was contemplating about maybe it’s time for me just to move on and do other things but with unanimous support from my community, they pretty much talked me out of it,” Nicholas said.
“There was even comments being made that I still had a lot to offer - and I do - but it was just trying to find the inspiration to do it. I think I got the inspiration when I decided go back in the club and help the club out through (rugby) league.
“I think through that process I have really got super inspired to get myself back up and get back in Parliament and try to make some good changes.
“I’m in a good space at the moment and it looks like things will get better than this,” he said
Democratic Party leader Browne said she was excited with the challenge of leading the Opposition in Parliament.
“I think it is going to be a challenging time for the Opposition as a whole. I’m very proud to be leading our team being a woman and of course we have four women in our line up so I’m very pleased about that as well,” Browne said.
“In the next few days and probably few months, I expect that there would be some huge challenges,”she said.
RNZ PACIFIC/COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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