A meeting is expected to be held in Nuku’alofa next week to discuss concerns over new road safety measures the government signed into law in October 2020.
The Attorney General Linda Folaumoetu’i will meet the Chief Magistrate Folau Lokotui, major stakeholders and the Ministry of Police as well as the Ministry of Infrastructure.
Hon Folaumoetu’i has confirmed to Kaniva News this morning she was contacted by the Chief Magistrate regarding the penalty of infringement notices.
“His view is that he has no discretion to impose fines lower than $500 if it comes to Court,” Folaumoetu’i said.
“We are going to meet with the Magistrate (or his representative) and major stakeholders, Police, Ministry of Infrastructure to discuss this issue sometimes next week.”
Responding to previous criticisms against the law, an authority reportedly said people who had been fined have rights to defend themselves in Court.
They claimed the courts will then decide the exact amount of money for them to pay after considerations of their circumstances and defences.
The Chief Magistrate did not think so and the meeting next week is expected to resolve the concerns.
The new law, which was introduced by the Minster of Transport ‘Akosita Lavulavu included the compulsory wearing of seatbelts, made the use of mobile phones while driving illegal and mandated that cars cannot be used without a registration plate.
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Children must also be seated when a vehicle is in motion, and they can no longer sit on the driver’s lap.
Playing loud music, extreme tinting and the addition of blinking, colourful or distracting lights have also been prohibited.
At the time, Hon. Lavulavu said the laws would make Tonga’s public roads safer.
The deadliest year on the roads in the past 10 years was 2018, with 21 deaths.
“The Traffic Act 2020 and the Roads Act 2020 have long been discussed and consulted on with the public and by the government during its passage through the legislative assembly,” the Ministry of Infrastructure said.
The law had been widely criticised by the public from the outset both in the local news and social media.
The gist of the condemnation has been that while the vast majority of people in Tonga owned vehicles, they did not have sources of income.
Critics cited sources from police who claimed most fatal accidents in Tonga were caused by speeding and drink driving.
Late last year photos of vehicles in Ha’apai shared on social media showed pick up vans full of people standing in the back while the vans were moving.
This was typical in December when villages only had pick up trucks to transport their supporters and players during the basketball season.
Commentaters on Facebook have asked what the government could do for these passengers and drivers of the Ha’apai pick up when the law for seatbelts was already in place.
Some believed the seatbelts law did not consider the fact that pick up trucks had been used to transport people in Tonga for a long time. They claimed that these vehicles appeared to have rarely been involved in road accidents.
Supporters of the law said if all drivers and passengers followed what the law stipulated Police would hardly fine anybody.
Fakahā ‘e he ‘Ateni Seniale’ Linda Folaumoetu’i ki he Ongoongo ‘a e Kaniva’ te ne fakahoko ha fakataha mo e Fakamaau Polisi Pule’ pehē ki he Potungāue Ki he Fefononga’aki’, Polisi mo kinautolu poupou ‘o e lao’ ni fekau’aki mo e hoha’a ki he totongi kuo hilifaki ‘e he pule’anga’ he’ene lao fo’ou 2020 ki he tulēfiki’, fefononga’aki’ mo hono ngāue’aki ‘o e me’alele’. Pehē ‘e Folaumoetu’i kuo ne ma’u ha fetu’utaki mei he Fakamaau Polisi Pule’ Folau Lokotui fekau’aki mo ‘ene tokanga ki he mafai ‘o e fakamaau’anga’ ke fakasi’isi’i ‘a e ngaahi tautea kuo tu’utu’uni ‘e he lao’ ni. ‘I he faka’uhinga ‘a Lokotui ‘oku ‘ikai ha mafai ‘o e fakamaau’anga’ ke toe holoki ‘a e tautea’ hangē ko ia ‘oku taukave’i ‘e he kau ma’umafai ne nau fakapaasi ‘a e lao’ ni. Pea ko e fakatātā mahino hangē ko e mo’ua ki he ta’efakama’u ‘o e leta’ ko e tautea ki ai ko e $500. Ne tui e Potungāue Fefononga’aki’ ia ko e mahu’inga ko ia’ ‘i he’ene tu’u ‘a e lao’ ‘e ala holoki ia ‘e he fakamaau’anga fakatatau ki ha taukapo ‘e fai ‘e ha taha kuo mo’ua ko e ta’eleta. Kuo ‘ikai tui ‘a Lokotui ‘oku ‘i ai ha mafai pehē ‘o e fakamaau’anga’ ka ko e pau pe ke totongi ‘a e $500 pea kuo ke ne fokotu’u atu ki he ‘Ateni Seniale ke fai hano vakai’i ange e lao’ ni. ‘E solova ‘a e hoha’a ko ia ‘i ha fakataha mo e ‘Ateni Seniale’ he uike kaha’u’. ‘I he’ene tu’u lolotonga’ ‘oku mamafa ange totongi ta’eleta ‘a Tonga’ ‘i Nu’u Sila. ‘Oku $150 Nu’u Sila ha tautea ‘o ha taha faka’uli ta’eleta ka ma’u kinautolu ‘e he polisi’. Ka liliu Tonga e $150 ko ia ‘e fe’unga mo $248. Kei fu’u mamafa ange pe totongi ‘a Tonga’. ‘I Nu’u Sila foki oku tuku mai ‘aho ‘e 28 ke totongi ai ‘a e mo’ua. Ka ‘ikai totongi ‘e tuku mai e tohi fakatokanga mo e toe ‘aho ‘e 28 ke totongi ai. Ka ‘ikai pe totongi pea ‘oku ‘ave leva ia ki he ngaahi kautaha ‘eke mo’ua’ ke nau ‘eke pea ‘oku fa’a toe hilifaki atu ai ‘a e totongi tautea foki. Ka ka ‘oku faingata’a’ia ‘a kinautolu kuo tautea’i ki he ta’eleta’ ‘e lava ke nau kole ki he kau tānaki mo’ua’ ke tuku mai ha taimi lōloa ange ke tātā fakafoki ai ‘a e mo’ua’ ‘o fakatatau ki honau tu’unga malava fakapa’anga’. Kapau ‘e ‘i ai ha tāla’a ki he tautea ‘oku hilifaki ki he ta’eleta’ ‘oku malava ke te fetu’utaki ki he kau ma’umafai ke solova ‘eni pea ka ‘ikai ‘oku ‘atā he lao ‘a Nu’u Sila’ ke te ‘ave kau polisi’ ki he fakamaau’anga’ ke ‘eke ai ‘e te totonu’.