Cabinet opposes Privy Council’s candidate for Anti-Corruption Commission boss

    Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva says his government has rejected the Privy Council’s candidate for the position of Tonga’s first Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption commission.

    Hon. Pōhiva said he had received unofficial information the Privy Council’s panel of judges had decided to appoint Tongan-New Zealand based barrister Kahungungu Afeaki to the post.

    The Prime Minister told Kaniva News the proposed salary for the Commissioner was too high and his government did not want to work with Afeaki.

    The Anti-Corruption Act 2007 stipulates His Majesty in Privy Council shall appoint an Anti-Corruption Commissioner. It says it was the duty of the Privy Council’s Judicial Appointments and Discipline Panel to recommend and advice the king in matters that deal with appointment of judicial officers.

    Kaniva understands the members of the Judicial Appointments and Discipline Panel are Lord Chancellor Harry Waalkens Esquire QC , the Lord Chief Justice Owen Paulsen, the acting Attorney General Aminiasi Kefu and two Law Lords apparently Lord Dalgety and Lord Tevita Tupou.

    The commissioner’s  salary is dealt with by the Panel with the consent of Cabinet.

    Hon. Pōhiva said the search for the Anti-Corruption commissioner was now deadlocked.

    Tonga’s Anti-Corruption Commission was formed in 2008 after the Anti-Corruption Act was passed on 13 September 2007.

    But after a new office was opened for the commission in mid-2008 the dream of a commission to fight against corruption in the kingdom slipped into oblivion.

    Last year Justice Minister Vuna Fāʻotusia announced that a panel of judges had interviewed and recommended a suitable candidate to the post.

    Hon. Fāʻotusia said the Australian Government had contributed TP$300,000 in 2008 to help fund  the Commissioner’s salary.

    However, the Parliament was told recently the Australian government had withdrawn its funding after it discovered the initial attempt to set up the commission had been unsuccessful.

    Hon. Fāʻotusia said in 2008 a panel of judges from Australia recommended appointing the then Chief Justice Shuster for the post but the two previous government administrations did not appoint him.

    The appointment of a Commissioner raises two issues for the Tongan authorities to consider.

    The Minister said former Chief Justice Ford had supported the idea a Tongan should be appointed to the post.

    Hon Fāʻotusia also revealed some of the former judges in Tonga agreed to the idea the salary should be reduced to TP$150,000.

    During Hon. Pōhiva’s visit to New Zealand earlier this year, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key urged Tonga to take action on the illegal sale of passports.

    Hon. Pōhiva said at the time the illegal passport sales were an “indication of corruption.”

    At the time Hon. Pōhiva said a New Zealander could become the first Anti-Corruption Commissioner.

    In July this year Kaniva News reported a claim by pioneer Tongan journalist Kalafi Moala that corruption in Tonga was now worse than ever.

    Moala was speaking at forum on corruption in New Zealand and the Pacific organised by Transparency International.

    The main points

    • Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva says his government has rejected the Privy Council’s candidate for the position of Tonga’s first Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption commission.
    • Pōhiva told Kaniva News he had received unofficial information the Privy Council’s panel of judges had decided to appoint Tongan-New Zealand based barrister Kahungungu Afeaki to the post.
    • The Prime Minister told Kaniva News the proposed salary for the Commissioner was too high and his government did not want to work with Afeaki.
    • Pohiva said the search for the Anti-Corruption commissioner was now deadlocked.

    For more information

    Corruption in Tonga worse than ever, Moala tells Transparency International forum (Kaniva News)

    Tonga PM: Corrupt passport ‘ninjas’ still a challenge

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