Pacific Games, Tongasat and failed bank cases dominated Supreme Court proceedings

July – 2018 Round-up

Games case goes to court

The legal repercussions of the Tongan government’s shock decision not to host the 2019 Pacific Games reached the Supreme Court.

The Pacific Games Council and Tonga’s own Olympic body, TASANOC, filed a legal claim against the government in May.

However, the government failed to respond within the legally stated period, setting off a chain of claims and counter-claims.

TASANOC and the Games council sought damages over what they said was a legally binding contract to host the Games in 2019.

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva suddenly announced the kingdom would not host the region’s main sporting competition despite previous predictions that Tonga could expect to benefit financially from the Games and the government’s introduction of special taxes to raise funds for the event.

The Pacific Games Council’s Chief Executive, Andrew Minogue said it was seeking damages for the losses that it suffered as a result of the decision not to host the games.

Read more. January round-up 

April 2018 round-up

AIDS

Tonga’s Health CEO Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola said there were only a few confirmed HIV cases in the kingdom.

However, he said people should be focussing on reducing high risk behaviour rather than focussing on the small number of cases.

His comments come on the same day that the leading UK medical journal, The Lancet, warned that a dangerous complacency in the response to the global HIV pandemic risked a resurgence of the disease.

Dr ‘Akau’ola said attention should be focussed on avoiding risky behaviour that to vulnerable people being exposed to HIV.

The Lancet said HIV infections remained persistent in marginalised groups, younger people, women and in developing countries.

Tongan to head fisheries agency

Tongan lawyer Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen was elected head of the Forum Fisheries Agency in July.

She had worked for the FFA for 13 years and was the agency’s legal advisor.

At the meeting where Tupou-Roosen was elected, the FFA said it would work improving labour standards for all crews.

It said it work to ensure that jobs in the industry were worthwhile and safe, including for Pacific Islanders. 

The agency said human rights were important for retaining access to global markets.

Pacific International Commercial Bank

The Supreme Court dismissed an attempt by the Pacific International Commercial Bank to overturn the revocation of its banking license.

The Court also ordered the PICB to stop calling itself a bank.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said the National Reserve Bank revoked Pacific International’s license in July 2016.

It had been issued on the basis that the PICB had the resources and ability to carry out its duties. The license was also dependent on bank having effective accounting,  internal controls, audit and risk management  systems.

However, the judge said the Reserve Bank  became increasingly concerned with the PIBC as its debts grew to TP$4.5 million and it failed to institute any effective management plan.

He said PICB failed to honour its business plan; failed to have its accounts audited and failed to provide accurate and reliable reports and continued to incur losses.

August

Death threats

The referee who disallowed Tonga’s last minute try in their game against England last year has announced his retirement.

Matt Cecchin told the BBC he had been the target of “vile abuse” and had received “hundreds and hundreds” of death threats.

As Kaniva News reported at the time, Cecchin disallowed a last minute try by Andrew Fifita which would have given Tonga victory and secured their place in the Rugby League World Cup final against Australia.

He ruled that Fifita had lost the ball before regathering and planting it over the try line.

Cecchin said members of his family  had also received death threats.

Prison escape aftermath

Police Superintendent Tu’ungafasi Polelei Falakiseni has escaped being sacked over the escape of American Dean Jay Fletcher, who was being held following the death of his wife.

Falakiseni was reduced to the rank of Chief Inspector of Police instead.

Fletcher was arrested on 9 July 2016 and charged with manslaughter.

He escaped from custody and sailed to American Samoa on his yacht.

The Tongan government requested his extradition, but this was denied. He was then transferred to Hawai’i and another request to have him returned to Tonga was also refused by American authorities.

“The escape has caused huge embarrassment to the Tonga Police, the Government of Tonga and the  Kingdom  of Tonga. Further, the  deceased’s  family is still deprived of the  justice  for  the brutal murder  of their  loved  one, “ the Police Employment Committee said.

Henderson Cars

Henderson Cars in Auckland continued to boost its cultural connection with the Tongan community by providing a free meal and a sponsorship of a major Tongan dancing competition.

The car dealership at 24 Great South Road, Takanini gave away free puaka tunu (roasted pig)  and ‘ota ika (fish mixed with coconut oils and vegetables) to the public every Saturday during August.

Henderson Cars has offered a Nissan Venetta van for Kaniva Tonga news as part of a new collaboration to boost the company’s public relation.

The company also live streamed a group dance of each category of the Miss Tau’olunga Faka-Tonga 2018 every Saturday.

Tongasat

Lord Chief Justice Cato ruled that the payment of millions of dollars of Chinese money to Princess Pilolevu’s satellite company was illegal.

The judge has described the Tongasat case as a “matter of national importance.”

He ruled in favour of Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva and the Public Service Association which had fought a five year battle against Tongasat over what it claimed were illegal payments to the company.

Hon. Pohiva began the case when he was in Opposition.

Tongasat was established to exploit the commercial possibilities of exploiting the right to place satellites in the orbital slot assigned to Tonga by the International Telecommunications Union.

It was 80% owned by Princess Pilolevu.

September

Kangaroos clash

The long awaited clash between Mate Ma’aand the Kangaroos finally became a reality with the announcedmnmet that Tonmg and australia would go head to head in Auckland on October 20.

Tongan star Jason Taumalolo hailed Kangaroos players for accepting arguably the biggest pay cut in rugby league history to stage the game.

Kangaroos players agreed to slash their normal $20,000 match pay to under $5000 for the Auckland match.

Kangaroos players pocketed around $50,000 each for winning last year’s Rugby Union World Cup, while tournament Tonga received only $500 a game.

Taumalolo won Player of the Year awards at the 2018 Players’ Champion accolades ceremony held in Sydney in September.

Australian work visas

Plans by the Australian government to introduce a new work visa for Asians that threatened places for Island workers were put on hold in September.

The Vanuatu Post reported that experts said the proposed visa would jeapordise gains made by Pacific workers.

The proposal would have given Asian workers opportunities now offered to Pacific workers under Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme.

However, following public opposition to the proposal, the Australian government shelved the proposal.

Tonga now has a 33% share of the Seasonal Worker Programme with 2790 workers. Tonga once dominated Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme, providing 81% of workers.

According to Tonga’s Minister of Internal Affairs ‘Akosita Lavulavu, the kingdom earns US$45 million a year from season work in the two countries.

NZTBC

The New Zealand Tonga Business Council Trade Mission signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tongan government.

NZTBC Chairman Sione Taufa signed the MOU with Hon. Tevita Tui Uata, Minister of Commerce, Consumer, Trade Innovation and Labour.

The signing took place at the New Zealand High Commission residence in Nuku’alofa.

“We the NZ Tonga Business Council believe that using trade as a vehicle will improve the lives of people of NZ and Tonga,” Taufa said.

Press complaint

Tongan community leaders and top scholars in New Zealand complained to the Human Rights Commission after broadcaster Heather du Plessis-Allan called Pacific islands “leeches.”

Commenting on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that she would visit Nauru during the Pacific Island forum leaders’ meeting, Du Plessis-Allan told her listeners: “The Pacific Islands don’t matter. They are nothing but leeches on us.”

She also referred to Nauru as a “hell hole”, and said it was not worth attending the Forum anyway because the Pacific Islands “don’t matter.”

Dr Malaki Koloamatangi of Massey University described du Plessis-Allan’s comments as discriminatory, degrading, disdainful and racist.

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