Supreme Court says Lord Sevele should have another chance in his claim against government

Tali ‘e he Fakamaau’anga Lahi' ‘a e kole mei he Pule’anga' ke ta’ofi e toe taukave ‘a Looti Sevele ‘i ha fakamatala ne toe liliu ‘o fakahū mai ‘i Tisema ta’u kuo ‘osi’ hili hono ta'ofi 'o e sipoti 'o mole ai 'ene ngāue ki he sino ko ia'. Pehē ‘e he ‘Eiki Fakamaau Lahi’ ko e fakamatala ne liliu ‘o toe ‘omai’ ‘oku ‘ikai ke ne lava ‘e ia ‘o fakafepaki’i ha ngāue fakalao he kaveinga' ni pea ko ia ai ‘oku ‘i ai hono matāmama ‘ona. Pehē 'e he 'Eiki Fakamaau Lahi' neongo ne totonu ke ne fakata'e'aonga'i e toe taukave 'a Sevele ko 'eni, ka 'oku ne hūfanga ‘i he totonu fakakonisitūtone ‘a Looti Sevele’ pea mo e fakamaau totonu'. Kuo’ ne toe ‘oange ai ha faingamālie ke toe fakalelei'i 'e ngaahi fakamatala 'eke' pea ke ne fakahū mai ‘i loto ‘i he ‘aho ‘e 42. Ko e tu'utu'uni 'eni 'a e Fakamaau Lahi' he 'aho' ni 15 'o Mā'asi'.

Lord Sevele should have another chance to argue his case for compensation over the government’s decision to abandon the 2019 Pacific Games, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said justice required that Lord Sevele be given an opportunity to be heard.

His ruling followed an application by the government to strike out Lord Sevele’s claims  against them. He had amended the argument set out in claims over his dismissal.

The Supreme Court ruling stemmed from the Tongan government’s decision to hold the 2019 South  Pacific Games.

In 2013 the Pacific Games Organisation Act was passed to establish the Tonga Pacific Games Organizing Committee  to organize, oversee and conduct the games.

Lord Sevele was appointed by CEO of the committee.

On   or about  May 17, 2017,  the  Government  of  Tonga  decided  to withdraw from holding the Games.

At a meeting of 27 July 2017, the Committee decided to wind up its affairs and agreed to terms upon which Lord Sevele’s employment would  be  terminated.  The  Committee agreed to pay him TP$105,869.98.

On August 3, 2017, the Committee notified the Government of the terms of the settlement.   The Government  did  not respond.

In late September that year Lord Sevele’s counsel wrote to the Minister of Finance, asserting that the Government was responsible for payment of  the  settlement  sum.  Again  the Government  did not respond.

Lord Sevele began legal action over the payment in January 2018.

The committee, which no longer existed as a legal entity, did not file a statement of defence. The government did not file a statement of defence.

The Supreme Court entered judgement in default of defence as to liability against the government.

The government applied to have this judgement set aside and this was done in November.

In November last year the government applied to have the plaintiff’s statement of claim struck out.

Lord Sevele then filed amended statements of claim in December last year.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen ruled in favour of the government in their application to have the amended statements be struck out.

“The amended statement of claim  presently  pleads no tenable  causes of action and   is otherwise defective.” the judge said.

However, he said a claim based on breach of the plaintiff’s constitutional rights could not be excluded.

“In my view, this case raises an important issue  and  while the amended statement of claim should be struck out the justice of the case requires that the plaintiff be given a further opportunity to amend his claim,” the judge said.

The main points

  • Lord Sevele should have another chance to argue his case for compensation over the government’s decision to abandon the 2019 Pacific Games, the Supreme Court has ruled.
  • His ruling followed an application by the government to strike out Lord Sevele’s claims  against them. He had amended the argument set out in claims over his dismissal.
  • The Supreme Court ruling stemmed from the Tongan government’s decision to hold the 2019 South  Pacific Games.

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