The Minister of Police Māteni Tapueluelu said he would put a hold to Police Commissioner Steve Caldwell’s pay today (Monday, March 26) if the Privy Council approves a recommendation from its committee to extend his contract.
It is expected the king would make its final decision today.
As Kaniva News reported, the Privy Council’s Judicial Appointment and Discipline Panel has extended the Police Commissioner’s contract.
But the extension depends on the king’s approval.
The Minister of Police claimed he had the power to withhold the commissioner’s pay under Clause 51 of Tonga’s constitution.
The move could trigger an action to resolve two apparently contradictory laws.
One law gives the king the power to appoint the Police Commissioner and another gives cabinet ministers power to pay the government commissioners and civil servants.
The move could also be seen as the final attempt by Minister of Police in his fights to dismiss Caldwell.
Caldwell’s contract will end next month.
The law said the commissioner could hold office for a period, not exceeding three years and is eligible for re-appointment for one further term only.
It also allowed the minister to give a written direction to the commissioner about the overall administration of Tonga Police, policies and priorities of Tonga Police for — the prevention of crime; community safety and public order and general law enforcement issues. But he cannot interfere in any decisions by the commissioner about members of Tonga Police
Tapueluelu told Kaniva News he was not satisfied with Caldwell’s leadership.
As Kaniva News reported earlier, Hon. Tapueluelu, has openly sided with a number of suspended officers protesting about their treatment.
The Police Commissioner’s position is largely funded by New Zealand.
The government told New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Tonga recently it did not want the Police Commissioner’s contract extended.
Last month a Police spokesman from Caldwell’s office said officers had been suspended for “very good reasons.”
“The Commissioner is confined by what he can say publicly on individual criminal and disciplinary cases currently under investigation,” the spokesperson said.
Tonga’s police force has a troubled history of corruption and abuse.
It also has a history of New Zealand police officers working in Tonga being faced with entrenched opposition from police opposed to attempts to clean up the force.
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