PSA’s former lawyer cites client confidentiality as Prime Minister’s PA and  ‘Amanaki trade accusations over withdrawal

'Oku taupotu 'i lalo ha fakamatala faka-Tonga

Prominent New Zealand lawyer Dr Rodney Harrison has refused to be drawn into a dispute between former clients the Tongan Public Service Association (PSA) and Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s office.

PSA head Mele ‘Amanaki, and the Prime Minister’s PA, Po’oi Pōhiva, have issued conflicting claims about the reason for Dr Harrison withdrawing his services from the PSA.

Dr Harrison was invited to comment on the conflicting claims, but declined to do so on the grounds of client confidentiality.

While respecting Dr Harrison’s decision, it should be noted that both ‘Amanaki and Po’oi have chosen to air conflicting versions of what would normally be confidential matters.

We report them as a matter of public interest.

It should also be noted that ‘Amanaki has attacked Kaniva news’s reporting of the issue. While that is her right in a democratic society, we stand by our reporting.

On November 1 we reported that we had learned of a dispute which caused Dr Harrison to stop representing the PSA.

We reported that ‘Amanaki questioned Dr Harrison over lawyer Laki Niu’s legal fees. We also reported that we understood he withdrew his services after she continued to argue with him about the issue.

Our story followed an exclusive interview with Prime Minister Pōhiva and Po’oi Pōhiva in Auckland.

Dr Harrison will still represent Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva in an upcoming appeal case lodged by Tongasat.

It is understood he will also represent former Kele’a newspaper editor Māteni Tapueluelu and former Kele’a publisher Lautala Tapueluelu and two staff from  Kele’a newspaper in a related matter.

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva and the Public Service Association (PSA) which had fought a five year battle against Tongasat over what it claimed were illegal payments of TP$90 million to the company.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs was Dr Harrison.

As Kaniva news reported earlier, the plaintiffs owed TP$7,025.55 to Niu in legal fees.

The fees stemmed from court cases in 2014 and 2015 in which Niu acted for the PSA.

‘Amanaki told Kaniva news in June that the PSA had planned to ask Dr Harrison to include Niu’s and the PSA’s costs when he negotiated his legal fees with the defendants in the cases. The defendants paid Dr Harrison in 2016.

‘Amanaki claimed Niu submitted his invoice late in 2017, by which time the defendants had paid Dr Harrison’s fees, but not Niu or the PSA’s costs.

Po’oi claims

Po’oi claimed ‘Amanaki wanted Dr Harrison to include Niu’s costs when he negotiated his legal fees with the defendants.

Po’oi claimed ‘Amanaki was “insistent” in the way she argued with Dr Harrison.

He also claimed Dr Harrison argued that ‘Amanaki should have settled the issue herself.

We asked ‘Amanaki on Thursday, November 1, if it was true this was the reason why Dr Harrison withdrew.  She did not respond until Sunday night, November 4.

‘Amanaki’s  denial

‘Amanaki denied Po’oi Pōhiva’s claim and claimed Harrison withdrew his services because of a dispute over a court case she referred to as CV64.

She claimed the real reason the PSA no longer wanted Dr Harrison to represent them in the  Tongasat appeal was because he said he would no longer represent them in another court case, CV49.

‘Amanaki claimed this was because the PSA and ‘Amanaki did not apply to the court to appoint a receiver to collect the costs from Tongasat on court case CV64.

This case stemmed from a lawsuit by Tongasat against PSA, Kele’a newspaper and four staff of the newspaper.

‘Amanaki said Tongasat eventually withdrew its lawsuit and the court ruled in March 31, 2016 that Tongasat should pay costs of TP$41,232.12 to the defendants.

She claimed Tongasat had yet to pay the costs awarded by the court.

She said Dr Harrison suggested they apply to the court to appoint a receiver to force Tongasat to pay their costs and they agreed.

She claimed she suggested that Minister of Police Māteni Tapueluelu process the application and if he refused, they would jointly processed the application.

‘Amanaki claimed that instead, Dr Harrison insisted that PSA do it.

She claimed Dr Harrison said if the PSA refused to lodge the receivership application he would no longer represent them.

‘Amanaki claimed she and PSA pleaded with Dr Harrison to rethink his decision as this was the first time they had hired him to represent them in court.

‘Amanaki claimed Dr Harrison told Prime Minister Pōhiva and Po’oi he would no longer represent PSA and ‘Amanaki on court case CV48 as they had had a falling out.

‘Amanaki claimed she replied to Dr Harrison’s e-mail and let ‘Akilisi and Po’oi know about the dispute.

She claimed she, Prime Minister Pōhiva and Po’oi pleaded with Dr Harrison to change his mind and represented them on court case CV49, but to no avail.

She claimed she and the PSA then told Dr Harrison he would not represent them on court case CV48.

Po’oi’s statement

Kaniva news recorded Po’oi’s statement which is transcribed in Tongan below:

Po’oi made his statement after we asked Prime Minister Pohiva if he was aware that Dr Harrison had decided to no longer represent the PSA and ‘Amanaki in the Tongasat appeal case. Hon. Pohiva said he was unaware of it.

Po’oi than said he did not let the Prime Minister know about the dispute because he did not want him to be worried by such issues.

Po’oi claimed the real reason Dr Harrison pulled out was because of the way ‘Amanaki argued with him about lawyer Laki Niu’s legal fees.

In Tongan Po’oi said:

“Na’e pehe ‘e Mele ia na’e totonu ke hanga ‘e Rodney ‘o fakahu ia ‘i he’ene cost.Ka na’e pehe ‘e Rodney ia na’e ‘ikai ‘oange ha me’a pehe ia ki ai. Pehe ‘e Rodney ia kapau ko ha ‘isiu ia na’e totonu ke settle  pe ia ‘e Mele mea fekau’aki mo e me’a ‘a Laki . Lahi ko e hono push atu ko ‘e Mele ‘u me’a ko ia ko e tala mai ‘e Rodney ia ko ‘ene ‘osi  ai pee ia he’ikai te ne toe hanga ‘e ia ia ‘o fakafofonga’i ia ‘e ia ia. Ne fu’u lahi pe ne fu’u malohi pe pe ‘ene (Mele) insistence. Ko e malo pe ‘ofa mai ‘a [Rodney] ia  ‘o ‘omai ‘ene service he ‘oku quality ia. He ko hono mo’oni pe ‘o na ia. He’ikai fie mole hono taimi ‘ona ia he fakafekiki holo mo e fanga ki’i me’a ko ‘eni ‘oku fele mo e ‘u keisi ia ‘e ma’u ai ‘ene pa’anga ia ‘ana. ‘A ia ko e me’a ia ko e ‘oku pehe ai ko e ‘a Rodney…ko e fo’i ‘isiu pe ko e ‘a Laki. He ne insist atu foki ‘a Mele ia ne totonu ke to’o ia mei he me’a kae tala mai ‘e he palangi ia ko e fe pa’anga ko e na’a mou collect ‘o taumu’a ki he me’a ko ‘eni.”

This translates into English as:

“Mele said Rodney should have included it when he negotiated his cost. Rodney said Mele should have settled Laki’s legal fees herself.  The more Mele pushed for it…. Rodney said he would no longer represent her. Mele was being insistent too much. It was thankful that [Dr Harrison] offered his service because it was high quality. The palagi asked where was the fundraising they collected money from to cover for the costs of these court cases.”

The main points

  • Prominent New Zealand lawyer Dr Rodney Harrison has refused to be drawn into a dispute between former clients the Tongan Public Service Association and Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s office.
  • Dr Harrison declined to comment on the dispute on the grounds of client confidentiality.
  • While respecting Dr Harrison’s decision, it should be noted that both ‘Amanaki and Pohiva have chosen to air conflicting versions of what would normally be confidential matters.

For more information 

Lawyer pulls out of Tongasat appeal as Pōhiva asks: where is money raised for legal fees?

1 COMMENT

  1. Na’e ‘ikai loto e loea ‘iloa ‘i Nu’u Sila ko Dr Rodney Harrison ke kau he fetukuaki kuo hoko he vā ‘ene ongo kalaeni ko e Kautaha ‘a e Kau Ngāue Fakapule’anga ‘a Tonga’ mo e Tokoni Fakataautaha ‘a e ‘Eiki Palēmia’, Po’oi Pōhiva.
    Na’e fakaafe’i ‘a Dr Harrison ‘e he Kaniva’ ke ne fakama’ala’ala mai ‘a e fetukuaki ni ka ne ‘ikai ke ne tali ke fai ha’ane lau makatu’unga he tauhi e ngaahi me’a fakapulipuli kuopau ke fakangatangata pe ki he kalaieni’.
    Lolotonga ‘a hono faka’apa’apa’i pe ‘a e tu’utu’uni ‘a Dr Harrison, ‘oku totonu ke fakatokanga’i kuo fili ‘a ‘Amanaki ia mo Po’oi ke na tuku mai ki he kakai ha ongo fakamatala kehekehe ‘o ha me’a na’e totonu ke tauhi fakapulipuli.
    ‘Oku mau lipooti atu leva ia ‘e kimautolu makatu’unga he ko e me’a eni ia ‘oku mahu’inga ki he lelei ‘a e kakai’ fakakātoa.
    ‘Oku totonu foki ke toe fakatokanga’i kuo ‘ohofi ‘e ‘Amanaki ‘a e līpooti na’e fai ‘e he Kaniva’ ‘i he ‘īsiu ko ‘eni’. Lolotonga ko ‘ene totonu ia ‘a’ana ‘i ha sōsaieti fakatemokālati, ‘oku mau kei tu’uma’u pe ‘i he lipooti na’a mau fai’.
    ‘I Nōvema ‘aho 1 na’a mau līpooti ai ‘oku lava ke mau tala na’e ‘i ai e fakakikihi na’e tupu ai hono ta’ofi ‘e Dr Harrison ke ne toe fakafofonga’i e PSA ‘i ha hopo.
    Na’a mau lipooti atu foki na’e hanga ‘e ‘Amanaki ‘o fehu’ia ‘a Dr Harrison ‘i he totongi loea ‘a Laki Niu. Na’a mau toe lipooti atu foki na’e mahino kiate kimautolu na’e ‘ikai toe fie fakafofonga’i ‘e Dr Harrison e PSA ko e hokohoko atu hono fakafehu’ia ‘e ‘Amanaki ‘a Dr Harrison he kaveinga ko ‘eni’.
    Na’e tu’unga ‘e mau ongoongo’ ‘i ha faka’eke’eke makehe mo e ‘Eiki Palēmia’ mo Po’oi ‘i ‘Aokalani’.
    ‘E kei fakafofonga’i pe ‘e Dr Harrison ‘a e ‘Eiki Palēmia’ ‘i ha hopo tangi kuo fakahū atu ‘e he Tongasat.
    ‘Oku mahino foki te ne toe fakafofonga’i pe ‘a e ‘ētita ki mu’a ‘a e Kele’a’ Māteni Tapueluelu mo e Papilisā ‘a e Kele’a ko Lautala Tapueluelu mo ha ongo sitafu ‘e ua ‘a e pepa Kele’a’ ‘i ha me’a ‘oku fekau’aki pe. .
    Na’e tu’utu’uni ‘a e Fakamaau’anga Lahi’ ‘o poupou ia ki he ‘Eiki Palēmia’ mo e ‘Asosieisini ‘a e Kau Ngāue Fakapule’anga’ ‘a ia kuo ta’u ‘e nima ‘enau fetakai mo e Tongasat ‘i ha pehē ne ta’efakalao ‘a e ngaahi totongi ‘o e pa’anga $90 miliona ki he kautaha’.
    Ko e loea ki he ongo talatalaaki’ ko Dr Harrison.
    Hangē ko ia ne līpooti ‘e he Kaniva’ ki mu’a na’e mo’ua ‘a e ongo talatalaaki’ fe’unga mo ha pa’anga $7,025.55 kia Laki Niu.
    Ko e mo’ua ‘eni ‘i ha hopo ‘i he 2014 mo e 2015 ‘a ia ne ngāue fakalao ai ‘a Niu ki he PSA.
    Na’e fakahā ‘e ‘Amanaki ki he Ongoongo ‘a e Kaniva’ ‘i Sune na’e palani ‘a e PSA ke kole kia Dr Harrison ke fakakau e totongi ‘a Niu’ mo e totongi ‘a e PSA he taimi ‘e alea’i ai ‘ene totongi loea mei he fa’ahi ‘e taha. Na’e totongi mai leva ‘a Dr Harrison ‘i he 2016.
    Na’e pehē ‘e ‘Amanaki na’e toki fakahū tōmui ange ‘e Niu ia ‘ene ‘inivoisi’ ‘i he 2017, ‘i he taimi ko ‘eni’ kuo ‘osi totongi ‘a e fi ia ‘a Dr Harrison ‘o ‘ikai kau ai ‘a e fakamole ia ‘a Niu’ mo e PSA.
    Na’e pehē ‘e Po’oi na’e fiema’u ‘e ‘Amanaki ia ke fakakau ‘e Dr Harrison ‘ene fakamole’ he taimi ne alea’i ai ‘e Dr Harrison ‘ene totongi’.
    Na’e pehē ‘e Po’oi na’e vilitaki ‘a ‘Amanaki ‘i he anga ‘ene fekihiaki mo Dr Harrison.
    Na’e toe pehē ‘e Po’oi na’e pehē ‘e Dr Harrison ia na’e tonu ke ‘ai pe ‘e ‘Amanaki ia me’a ko ia ‘iate ia pe.
    Na’a mau ‘eke leva kia ‘Amanaki he Tu’apulelulu’, ‘aho 1 ‘o Nōvema’ pe ko e mo’oni ko e ‘uhinga eni ‘o e holomui ‘a Dr Harrison. Na’e ‘ikai tali mai ia ‘o toki a’u mai ki he Tokonaki ‘aho 4 ‘o Nōvema’ kuo ne tali mai.
    ‘Amanaki’s denial
    Na’e faka’ikai’i ai ‘e ‘Amanaki ia e fakamatala ‘a Po’oi mo ne pehē ko e holomui ‘a Dr Harrison koeuhi ko e fekihiaki ia ‘i he hopo fika CV64.
    Na’a’ ne pehē ko e ‘uhinga ‘a e ‘ikai toe fie ma’u ‘e Dr Harrison ke fakafofonga’i kinautolu’ ‘i he hopo mo e Tongasat koe’uhi he ‘e ‘ikai te ne toe fakafofonga’i kinautolu ‘i he hopo fika CV49.
    Pehē ‘e ‘Amanaki na’e tupu ‘eni koe’uhi na’e ‘ikai fakahoko ‘e he PSA mo ‘Amanaki e kole ki he fakamaau’anga ke fokotu’u ha lisiva ke ne tānaki ‘a e mo’ua mei he Tongasat ‘i he keisi CV64.
    Ko e keisi ‘eni ‘i hono faka’ilo ‘e he Tongasat ‘a e PSA, nusipepa Kele’a mo ha kau sitafu ‘e toko fā ‘a e nusipepa’.
    Na’e pehē ‘e ‘Amanaki na’e iku ‘o holomui heni ‘a e Tongasat mei he faka’ilo’ pea tu’utu’uni leva ‘a e fakamaau’anga’ ‘i Mā’asi ‘aho 31, 2016 ‘oku totonu ke totongi ‘e he Tongasat ‘a e TP$41,232.12.
    Na’a’ ne pehē ‘oku te’eki ai totongi ‘e he Tongasat ia e fakamole kuo fakahā ‘e he Fakamaau’anga’.
    Na’a’ ne pehē na’e fokotu’u mai ‘e Dr Harrison ke nau kole ki he fakamaau’anga’ ke fokotu’u ha lisiva ke ne fakamālohi’i e Tongasat ke totongi ‘enau fakamole’ pea ne nau felotoi ki ai.
    Na’a’ ne fokotu’u leva ke fai ‘eni ‘e he Minisitā Polisi’ ‘a hono fai ‘o e ‘apilikeisini’ pea ka toki ‘ikai ke ne tali pea nau toki fakahoko fakataha leva.
    Pehē ‘e ‘Amanaki ia na’e ‘ikai loto ki heni ‘a Dr Harrison kae vili ia ke fai pe ‘e he PSA.
    Na’a’ ne pehē na’e fakahā ‘e Dr Harrison ka ‘ikai fai ‘e he PSA ‘a hono fai ‘o e ‘apilikeisini ki he lisivasipi’ pea ‘e ‘ikai leva ke ne toe fakafofonga’i ia ‘e ia ‘a e PSA mo ‘Amanaki.
    Na’e pehē ‘e ‘Amanaki na’e kole ‘a e PSA kia Dr Harrison ke toe fakakaukau’i ‘ene fakakaukau he ko e fuofua keisi ‘eni ne nau haea ai ia ke ne fakafofonga’i kinautolu ‘i he fakamaau’anga ka ne ‘ikai pe ha ‘utu ‘e hakea.
    Na’e pehē ‘e ‘Amanaki na’e fakahā ‘e Dr Harrison ki he ‘Eiki Palēmia’ mo Po’oi ‘e ‘ikai ke ne toe fakafofonga’i ‘e ia ‘a e PSA mo ‘Amanaki ‘i he hopo fika 49 tu’unga ‘i ha fetō’aki.
    Na’e pehē ‘e ‘Amanaki na’a ne tali atu leva ki he ‘imeili ‘a Dr Harrison kia ‘Akilisi mo Po’oi ke na ‘ilo ‘a e ‘uhinga ‘o e fetō’aki.
    Na’a’ ne pehē ne nau kaungā kole leva mo Pōhiva mo Po’oi ke liliu mu’a ‘a e fakakaukau ‘a Dr Harrison pea ke ne kei fakafofonga’i pe kinautolu he keisi CV 49 ka ne ‘ikai pe ha ‘utu ‘e hakea.
    Na’a’ ne pehē na’a ne fakahā leva mo e PSA kia Dr Harrison he ‘ikai ke nau loto ke ne toe fakafofonga’i kinautolu ‘i he hopo fika CV48.
    Na’a mau lekooti telefoni e fakamatala ‘a Po’oi ‘a ia ne fai ia ‘i Nu’u Sila ni ‘i ‘Okatopa. Pehē ‘e Po’oi ia ko e ‘u me’a ko ‘eni ‘oku ‘ikai ke ne ‘ai ‘e ia ke ‘ilo ‘e he Palēmia he ‘oku ‘ikai loto ia ke hoha’a’ia ia he ‘u fakafekiki pehee’.
    Na’e pehē ‘e Po’oi ki he Kaniva’ ko e ‘uhinga totonu pe ia ‘o e holomui ‘a Dr Harrison koeuhī ko e founga hono kikihi’i ia ‘e ‘Amanaki kau ki he totongi loea ‘a Laki Niu’.
    Ko hono hiki tohi ‘eni ‘e he Kaniva’ e fakamatala tonu ‘a Po’oi.
    Ko e lau ‘eni ‘a Po’oi ki he Kaniva: ““Na’e pehe ‘e Mele ia na’e totonu ke hanga ‘e Rodney ‘o fakahu ia ‘i he’ene cost.

    Ka na’e pehe ‘e Rodney ia na’e ‘ikai ‘oange ha me’a pehe ia ki ai. Pehe ‘e Rodney ia kapau ko ha ‘isiu ia na’e totonu ke settle pe ia ‘e Mele mea fekau’aki mo e me’a ‘a Laki .

    Lahi ko e hono push atu ko ‘e Mele ‘u me’a ko ia ko e tala mai ‘e Rodney ia ko ‘ene ‘osi ai pee ia he’ikai te ne toe hanga ‘e ia ia ‘o fakafofonga’i ia ‘e ia ia. Ne fu’u lahi pe ne fu’u malohi pe pe ‘ene (Mele) insistence. Ko e malo pe ‘ofa mai ‘a [Rodney} ia ‘o ‘omai ‘ene service he ‘oku quality ia. He ko hono mo’oni pe ‘o na ia. He’ikai fie mole hono taimi ‘ona ia he fakafekiki holo mo e fanga ki’i me’a ko ‘eni ‘oku fele mo e ‘u keisi ia ‘e ma’u ai ‘ene pa’anga ia ‘ana. ‘A ia ko e me’a ia ko e ‘oku pehe ai ko e ‘a Rodney…ko e fo’i ‘isiu pe ko e ‘a Laki. He ne insist atu foki ‘a Mele ia ne totonu ke to’o ia mei he me’a kae tala mai ‘e he palangi ia ko e fe pa’anga ko e na’a mou collect ‘o taumu’a ki he me’a ko ‘eni.

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