The government has criticised the role of a Parliamentary committee in leading a public consultation on six new Bills it submitted to Parliament recently.
The Bills have been labelled as urgent, which meant the House should have tabled them without processing for parliamentary public consultations.
But after heated debates on how the Acting Speaker Lord Tuilakepa interpreted the law which dealt with the urgency process, the new Bills ended up at the Legislative Assembly of Tonga’s Standing Committee which decided that the Bills must be made available for public consultation.
Two MPs, Noble Lord Fusitu’a and Vava’u 15 Samiu Vaipulu, who strongly opposed the Bills when they were submitted to the House, were leading the consultation along with the Minister of Justice Vuna Fā’otusia and Solicitor General Sione Sisifā.
A government spokesperson said the team’s travelling allowances and expenses involved the consultation process would be paid by the taxpayers.
The government believed these were unnecessary expenses after Acting Speaker Lord Tu’ilakepa appeared to have misinterpreted the Urgency law.
The government believed a talkback show consultation conducted by the Acting Attorney General on local radios earlier this year was enough.
The government spokesperson said these were Bills belonged to the government ministers who were elected by the people.
He said there was no need to spend taxpayers’ money on another meeting to consult with the people on these Bills because the government had been elected by the people so they can do this for them.
The government spokesperson said it was normal that if the Bills came from the public than a nationwide public consultation should be conducted.
He said the government chose the radio talkback show for its public consultation because it believed almost every household throughout Tonga has a radio to listen to.
“The problem with face to face public consultation, as we learnt from the past, is that the turn out at some villages and islands can be low to nothing,” the spokesperson said.
The public consultation began on Monday, May 6 on six Government Bills, that were tabled in Parliament in March 2019.
A Parliament statement said: “The purpose of the public consultation is to brief the public on the amendments proposed in the Bills and to gather the public’s opinion on those proposed amendments, and invite written submission from the public. There was a public awareness programme to provide information about the Bills in the lead up to the public meetings.”
The Members of the Standing Committee on Legislation hosted public meetings in Vava’u from May 6–10 and Ha’apai from May 13-14. More meetings will be held in Tongatapu from May 15-22 and ‘Eua on May 24.
The Bills are listed as follows:
(i) Bill no. 15/2019 – Act of Constitution of Tonga (Amendment) Bill 2019
(ii) Bill no. 16/2019 – Act of Constitution of Tonga (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2019
(iii) Bill no. 17/2019 – Tonga Police (Amendment) Bill 2019
(iv) Bill no. 18/2019 – Magistrate’s Courts (Amendment) Bill 2019
(v) Bill no. 19/2019 – Judicial and Legal Service Commission Bill 2019
(vi) Bill no. 20/2019 – National Spatial Planning and Management (Amendment) Bill
The main points
- The government has criticised the role of a Parliamentary committee in leading a public consultation on six new bills it submitted to Parliament recently.
- The Bills has been labelled as urgent, which meant the House should have tabled it without processing it for a parliamentary public consultations.
For more information
Noble and Independent MPs walk out, but work of Parliament continues as normal