Lord Chief Justice to deliver judgement on Lavulavu trial in January 2016

Lord Chief Justice Owen Paulsen will deliver judgement on the Lavulavu case next month.

Failed parliamentary candidate Dr Viliami Uasike Latu lodged a complaint against former Minister for Infrastructure Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu alleging corruption and illegal campaigning in Tonga’s 2014 General Election.

Three weeks’ of hearings concluded in Tonga’s Supreme Court in Neiafu, Vava’u, yesterday.

Mr Justice Paulsen reserved his decision until January.

Hon. Lavulavu, who is also MP for Vava’u 16, was stripped of the Infrastructure portfolio by Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who also imposed a fine on him earlier this year.

The Prime Minister’s actions came in the wake of a move to impeach the Minister. Lavulavu remains Tourism Minister.

Yesterday the trial heard final submissions from Hon. Lavulavu’s witnesses.

Prominent commercial farmer Sione Lisala from Leimatua and Chairman of Leimatua Women’s Development Group and Leimatua Grower’s Association gave the closing depositions on behalf of Hon. Lavulavu.

Lisala told the court that he lived next door to Dr Latu’s house in Leimatua and was related by blood to both Dr Latu and Hon. Lavulavu.

Lisala said in his evidence that everybody in Leimatua was a member of the association, which approached the Minister for help in marketing and sourcing funding for the growers’ body

Lisala answered every question firmly in support of Hon.Lavulavu during questioning by Clive Edwards, who appeared for Dr Latu.

Edwards appeared to struggle during the cross examination.

Edwards argued that for Hon. Lavulavu to represent the Vava’u Road Council was unlawful according to documents and files submitted to court by the registration office in regard to the association.

The plaintiff subpoenaed the registration file for Vava’u Road Works Council from the Ministry of Labour and Commerce and also summoned its Principal Assistant Registrar, Maiseni Fukofuka to give evidence in court.

Siosifa Tuutafaiva, who acted for Hon. Lavulavu, asked Fukofuka if the Vava’u Road Work Council was still registered under the Ministry of Labour and Commerce. Fukofuka agreed that it was.

Mr Justice Paulsen asked Fukofuka to clarify the process and how the registration forms and other documents were filed when received by the registration office.

Fukofuka said there were discrepancies in the way the Ministry of Labour and Commerce office of registrar kept records.

The court was told there were differences between different copies of the registration of the Vava’u Road Council submitted to court by the defendant and those submitted by the plaintiff.

The respondent’s evidence showed the  Vava’u Road Council documents were stamped and marked as received by the Ministry of Labour and Commerce in 2010, but that this was missing from the Ministry of Labour and Commerce file submitted to the court yesterday.

The main points

  • Lord Chief Justice Owen Paulsen will deliver his judgement on the Lavulavu case next month.
  • Failed parliamentary candidate Dr Viliami Uasike Latu lodged a complaint against former Minister for Infrastructure Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu alleging corruption and illegal campaigning in Tonga’s 2014 General Election.
  • Three weeks’ of hearings concluded in Tonga’s Supreme Court in Neiafu, Vava’u, yesterday.
  • Mr Justice Paulsen reserved his decision until January.

For more information

Lavulavu trial continues this afternoon, but blood ties make it hard for witnesses (Kaniva News)

PM punishes Lavulavu to work without pay for 5 months (Tongan Parliament)

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