The king had no right to judge the merits of legislation passed by Parliament, according to a New Zealand legal expert.

Dr Rodney Harrison said that under the 2010 Constitution, review and evaluation of the merits of legislation passed by the General Assembly did not fall within the scope of the king’s powers of sanction and signature.

Dr Harrison said the king had withheld or deferred his signature from a number of pieces of legislation because it was deemed to be inappropriate or unconstitutional.

He said the new Constitution excluded the King and Privy Council from the role of governing the Kingdom.

He said judgements about whether legislation was constitutional went against the doctrine of the separation of powers and the role and independence of the judiciary.

He said the Royal Assent Order 2011, under which the king and Privy Council purported to act,  was therefore invalid.

Dr Harrison was asked to give an opinion on the legality of the Royal Assent Order 2011  by the Prime Minister’s office.

However, Dr Harrison said challenging the validity of the Order in court would not solve the real problem, which was the regular deferral or refusal of royal assent for legislation that had been approved by Parliament.

“The underlying problem is not the legal validity of the Royal Assent Order as such,” Dr Harrison said.

“The underlying problem is the view currently held by His Majesty or at least by the Privy Council and in particular the Law Lords as His advisors, as to the extent of the King’s power to grant or refuse the Royal Assent conferred by Clause 56 of the Constitution.

“It is that in my respectful opinion erroneous view of the King’s constitutional powers that needs to be addressed, hopefully by reasoned persuasion or if not, by judicial ruling.”

Dr Harrison said the old Tongan constitution made it clear that the three arms of government had to be kept separate as a safeguard for the proper running of the country and the safeguarding of the liberties of its people.

Challenges

The Royal Assent Order 2010 challenged the underlying assumptions of the Tongan constitution. The Order allowed the King to appoint privy councillors as advisors and a Judicial Committee had also been established by the privy Council in 2011.

Dr Harrison said any powers and functions conferred on any such committee, must be consistent with the overall scheme of the Constitution and any other statutory or fundamental legal principle.

Clause 41 of the Constitution required that “Acts that have passed the Legislative Assembly” must “bear the King’s signature before they become law”.

He said that under the new Constitution the king did not have complete discretion to refuse to sign an Act that had been passed by the Legislative Assembly.

He said changes to the constitution in 2010 had shifted the balance of power from the king to Parliament. This meant that the king should exercise his veto on legislation only in “truly exceptional circumstances and for compelling reason.”

Problems had arisen because the king had deferred assent to legislation passed by Parliament on the advice of Privy Councillors and the Law Lords appointed by the king to the Judicial Committee.

No role

Dr Harrison said the Law Lords played no specific constitutional role, other than that of providing the King with advice.

They could not be permitted to operate de facto as judicial officers and did not have any constitutional function or role as scrutineers of legislation or the legislative process.

“The most fundamental problem with the Royal Assent Order is that it purports to confer on the Judicial Committee and ultimately the Privy Council power to review Acts duly passed by the Legislative Assembly and ultimately to determine whether each such Act is an ‘appropriate’ or ‘inappropriate’ recipient of the Royal Assent; and whether any such Act is or even may be unconstitutional,” Dr Harrison said.

“Under the new Constitution, review and evaluation of the merits of legislation passed by the General Assembly do not fall within the scope of the King’s powers of sanction (and signature).

“The ‘inappropriateness’ assessment falls foul of the new Constitution’s exclusion of the King and Privy Council from the role of governing the Kingdom. The constitutionality assessment does likewise, and in addition offends against the constitutional separation of powers and specifically the role and independence of the judiciary.

“If the assessments which the Royal Assent Order purports to authorise fall outside the constitutional powers of the King Himself, it necessarily follows that they cannot be empowered by means of the Royal Assent Order, as a mere Order in Council purportedly made pursuant to Clause 50(3) of the Constitution. On that basis, the Royal Assent Order must be seen as invalid.”

Dr Harrison said the Royal Assent Order was also invalid because it purported to confer the ultimate power of decision and assessment on the Privy Council, when it was only intended to provide a mechanism for giving advice   to the King.

The main points

  • The king had no right to judge the merits of legislation passed by Parliament, according to a New Zealand legal expert.
  • Dr Rodney Harrison said that under the 2010 Constitution, review and evaluation of the merits of legislation passed by the General Assembly did not fall within the scope of the King’s powers of sanction and signature.
  • Dr Harrison said the king had withheld or deferred his signature from a number of pieces of legislation because it was deemed to be inappropriate or unconstitutional.
  • He said the new Constitution excluded the King and Privy Council from the role of governing the Kingdom.

4 COMMENTS

  1. ‘Oku ‘ikai ha totonu fakakonisitūtone ‘a e tu’i’ ke ne toe fakamaau’i ha lao na’e paasi mei Fale Alea, fakatatau ‘eni ki ha fakamatala ‘a ha taukei lao mei Nu’u Sila.

    Na’e pehē ‘e Dr Rodney Harrison ‘i he malumalu ‘o e Konisitūtone 2010, ko hono vakai’i pe sivisivi’i e fakalao ‘o ha lao kuo paasi mei he fakataha’anga Fale Alea’ ‘oku ‘ikai fie ma’u ia ke toe fakamo’oni ki ai e tu’i pe te ne toe fakamafai’i.

    Pehē ‘e Dr Harrison kuo ‘osi ta’ofi tu’u ‘e he tu’i’ pea’ ne toloi ha’ane fakamo’oni huafa ‘ana ki ha ngaahi lao ‘e ni’ihi kuo paasi mei Fale Alea koe’uhī he ‘oku ‘ikai ke fe’unga pe ta’efakakonisitutone.

    Na’a’ ne pehē kuo ‘osi hanga ‘e he konisitūtone fo’ou ‘a Tonga’ ‘o fakamavahe’i e tu’i’ mo e Fakataha Tokoni’ mei hono fakalele ‘o e fatongia pule’i ‘o e pule’anga fakatu’i’.

    Na’a’ ne pehē ko hono fakamaau’i ko ia ‘e he tu’i’ pe ‘oku fakakonisitūtone ha lao kuo paasi mei Fale Alea’ ‘oku fepaki ia mo hono ‘osi vahevahe ‘o e mafai pule ‘o e fonua’ mo e fatongia tau’atāina ‘o e fakamaau’anga’ (pule’anga, Fale Alea mo e Fakamaau’anga.)

    Na’a’ne pehē ko e Tu’utu’uni Fakatu’i ‘o e 2011 ki hono fakahoko ‘o e liliu’ ‘a ia ‘o fakamānava’i ai e Fakatah Tokoni’ mo e tu’i’ ‘oku ta’e’aonga ia.

    Na’e kole e ‘Ōfisi ‘o e Palēmia’ kia Dr Harrison ke ‘omai ange’ ‘ene fakakaukau ki he tu’unga fakalao ‘o e Tu’utu’uni Fakatu’i ko ‘eni ke toki fakamo’oni e tu’i ki ha lao kuo paasi mei he Fale’ pea ‘e toki hoko ia ko ha lao.

    Neongo ia na’e pehē ‘e Dr. Harrison ko hano pole’i e fakalao ‘o e Tu’utu’uni Fakatu’i ko ‘eni ‘a e tu’i’ ‘o ‘ikai fakamo’oni ia pea toloi e ngaahi lao kuo paasi ‘e Fale Alea’ ‘e ‘ikai ke solova ia ‘i he fakamaau’anga’ pe.

    ‘Oku ‘ikai ko e palopalema’ pe ‘oku fakalao ‘a e Tu’utu’uni Fakatu’i ke ‘ikai fakamo’oni pe toloi ‘e he tu’i’ ‘a e ngaahi lao kuo paasi’, ko e lau ia ‘a Dr Harrison.

    Ko e palopalema’ ko e pehē ko ē ‘oku lolotonga ma’u ‘e He’ene ‘Afio’ pe ko e Fakataha Tokoni’ tautefito ki he kau ‘Eiki Lao ‘a ia ko ‘ene kau fale’i’ ia’ ha mafai ke nau tu’utu’uni fakatu’i ke fakamo’oni pe ‘ikai fakamo’oni e tu’i’ ki ha lao fakatatau ki he kupu 56.

    ‘I he’eku fakakaukau ‘i he funga ‘o e faka’apa’apa ko e fakakaukau hala fekau’aki mo e ngaahi mafai fakakonisitūtone ‘o e tu’i’ ‘oku fiema’u ia ke fai ha ngāue ki ai, pea ‘i he ‘amanaki ‘e fai hano fakafinangaloa e tu’i’ ‘i ha ‘uhinga lelei, pea kapau ‘e ‘ikai, pea kumia ha tu’utu’uni fakafakamaau’anga.

    Na’e pehē ‘e Dr Harrison na’e mahino ‘i he konisitūtone motu’a’ ‘a hono vahe tolu ‘o e mafai pule ‘o e pule’anga’ ke ne malu’i hono fakalele lelei ‘o e fonua’ mo malu’i e tau’atāina ‘a e kakai’.

    Ko e Tu’utu’uni Fakatu’i ke fakamo’oni huafa e tu’i ki ha lao mei he 2010 ‘oku’ ne pole’i ‘e ia ‘a e ngaahi faka’amu ne toka ‘i he konisitūtone ‘a Tonga’. Na’e fakangofua ‘e he Tu’utu’uni’ e tu’i ke ne fakanofo ha’ane kau kosilio Fakataha Tokoni ko ‘ene kau fale’i mo ha Kōmiti Faifakamaau ‘a ia na’e fokotu’u ‘e he Fakataha Tokoni’i he 2011.

    Na’e pehē ‘e Harrison ko ha ngaahi mafai pe fatongia na’e hilifaki ki ha komiti pehē, kuopau ke fenāpasi mo e taumu’a fakalukufua ‘o e Konisitūtone’ mo ha toe ngaahi tefito’i fakakaukau ‘o e ngaahi lao kehe’.

    ‘I he kupu 41 ‘o e Konisitūtone’ ‘oku fiema’u ai ko e Lao kotoa ‘oku paasi ‘i he Fale Alea’ kuopau ke fakamo’oni huafa ki ai ‘a e tu’i’ pea toki hoko ko e lao.

    Na’a’ ne pehē ‘i he konisitūtone fo’ou’ ‘oku ‘ikai ke ma’u ‘e he tu’i’ ia ‘a e mafai kakato ke ne fakafisi ke fakamo’oni ki ha Lao kuo paasi mei he Fale Alea’.

    Na’a’ ne pehē ko e liliu ko ē ‘o e konisitūtone’ ‘i he 2010 kuo’ ne hiki ‘e ia e palanisi ‘o e mafai mei he tu’i’ ki he Fale Alea’. ‘Oku ‘uhinga ‘eni ‘e toki fakahoko pe ‘e he tu’i’ ‘a hono mafai ke fakafisinga’i ha’ane fakamo’oni ki ha lao ‘i ha ngaahi me’a makehe mo’oni mo fu’u fie ma’u vivili.

    Kuo makape hake ha ngaahi palopalema koe’uhī kuo toloi ‘e he tu’i’ ia ‘ene mokoi ki ha ngaahi lao kuo fakapaasi mei Fale Alea ‘i ha fale’i ‘a ‘ene kau fale’i’ mo e kau ‘Eiki Lao’ ne fakanofo ‘e he tu’i’ ki he’ene komiti faifakamaau’.

    Na’e pehē ‘e Harrison ‘oku ‘ikai ha fatongia fakakonisitūtone pau ‘o e kau ‘Eiki Lao’ ka ko ‘enau fale’i pe ‘a e tu’i’.

    ‘Oku ‘ikai ngofua ke nau ma’u ha totonu fakalao ‘i honau tu’unga ko e kau ‘ofisa fakamaau pea ‘oku ‘ikai hanau fatongia fakakonisitūtone pe ngafa ke nau sivisivi’i ha lao pe founga hono fa’u ‘o ha lao.

    Na’e pehē Dr Harrison ko e Tu’utu’uni Ke Fakamo’oni e Tu’i kae toki hoko ha lao ne paasi mei Fale Alea ko ha lao ‘oku ta’e’aonga ia koe’uhi na’e hangē ne fakataumu’a ia ke ne ‘oange ‘a e mafai kakato ki he Fakataha Tokoni’ ke faitu’utu’uni mo faisivi ki he ngaahi lao paasi ‘a e Fale’ ka ‘oku ‘ikai, na’e ‘uhinga pe ‘a e mafai ‘oku ‘oange ke nau hoko ko e fale’i ki he tu’i.

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