Tongan lawyers, including senior legal figures Sifa Tū’utafaiva, William Clive Edwards Snr and New Zealand based Tongan lawyer Nalesoni Tupou have called on the king to revoke the appointment of lawyer and Privy Council’s Lord Chancellor Tavake Afeaki as Acting Lord Chief Justice.
The appointment has been made to fill the gap left by Lord Chief Justice Michael Whitten’s absence on holiday in Australia.
The lawyers said they wanted Lord Afeaki’s appointment as Acting Lord Chief Justice revoked and the traditional process of appointing the Senior Justice from the Supreme Court as the acting Lord Chief Justice be maintained, according to a copy of the petition. seen by Kaniva News.
The Senior Justice in the Supreme Court is Hon Justice Niu who the petitioners said had demonstrated competency, fairness and loyalty to the application of the rule of law and justice.
Kaniva News understands the lawyers are concerned about whether Lord Afeaki has sufficient legal experience to hold such an important position. Their petition to the king also raised serious concerns about the role of Lord Dalgety in the process.
“The appointment of the Acting Lord Chief Justice Afeaki has been made on the advice and recommendation of the Judicial Panel,” the petition said.
“The Panel consists of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice and the Law Lords.
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“Lord Afeaki is the Chairperson of the Panel who has, through the assistance, support and promotion by Lord Dalgety, elevated himself to the position of Acting Lord Chief Justice.
“The appointment is tainted with cronyism, personal interest and self-promotion within the Panel. There is a conflict of interest with the Chairperson appointing himself to the position of Acting Lord Chief Justice.
“The Panel is established to consider suitably qualified and appropriate candidates for judicial office and is not established for the promotion of its members to the Judiciary. The decision is not transparent and is wrong.
“We are dissatisfied with the interference and influence that Lord Dalgety purports to exercise in the appointment of the Acting Lord Chief Justice.”
In an e-mail seen by Kaniva News, Edwards said members of the Law Society were concerned with the principle and the manner in which Afeaki had been appointed as Acting Lord Chief Justice.
“We do not believe that the Panel should promote their own Chairman as the Acting Lord Chief Justice,” Edwards said.
“That appointment raises a number of issues. The Panel is there to consider and recommend suitable candidate, but not to consider themselves first and to promote themselves to high judicial offices in Tonga.”
The submission has again brought to light the problems which were found in a review that the current system is unworkable and incompatible with the principles of constitutional monarchy and democracy.
The king’s Judicial Appointments and Discipline Panel of which Afeaki was the Chairman, makes recommendations about judicial appointments to His Majesty. This system has been heavily criticised as undemocratic. Now there seems to be also a conflict of interest surrounding this and it opens another opportunity for critics to attack the system, which the Pursglove review in 2014 described as the poorest among the Commonwealth countries.
Kaniva News has contacted Lord Dalgety and asked him to comment on the petition. We are awaiting a response.
Kuo tohi e kau loea ki he tu’i ke fakafoki hono fokotu’u ‘o Loea Tavake Afeaki ki he lakanga ‘Eiki Fakamaau Lahi Le’ole’o’ he oku fepaki heni ‘a e fiema’u he’ene toe fokotu’u pe ‘e ia ia ki he lakanga mahu’inga taha eni he lao ‘o e fonua’. Ko e fatongia e pēnolo’ ke kumi ha taha taukei fe’unga ki he lakanga’ ka ‘oku ‘ikai ko ‘enau toe fokotu’u pe ‘e kinautolu ‘a kinautolu, ko e lau ia ‘a e kau loea’. Nau toe hoha’a foki pe ko e ha ko ā e taukei fakalao a e tama ni ki he lakanga mahuinga ko eni. Tukuaki’i ‘a Looti Dalgety ki he’ene hūhū holo ke teke ‘a Afeaki ki he lakanga he ko kinaua ne na ‘i he kautaha vaka Shipping ‘o mole ai ‘a e MV Ashika pea ko eni ‘oku na i he Fakataha Tokoni’. Ko e taha eni e me’a ne fai ‘a e manavasi’i ki ai he oku ‘ikai taliui e penolo ia ‘a e Tu’i ki ha taha kehe pea ‘e fakatu’utāmaki fau ‘enau ma’u e fu’u mafai ke alasi e Fakamaau’anga’. Ko e palopalema eni ne tu’unga ai hono feinga’i ke fakatonutonu e konisitutone mohu palopalema ne fai’aki e liliu 2010 pea ne ‘osi lea ki heni ‘a e pule’anga ‘o Tu’ivakanoo’ pea pehe ki he pule’anga ‘o ‘Akilisi Pōhiva hili ha ha’u ‘a ha mataotao ki Tonga he 2014 ‘o vakai’i e konisitutone ko eni pea ne pehe ko e konisitutone ma’olalo taha ia he Kominiueli ‘a ‘eni ‘oku tau palopalama ai ko eni. Oku tukuaki’i foki ia ko e konisitūtone ko ‘eni ne lahi fa’u pe ia Looti Dalgety ‘o ‘ave ‘o fakapaasi i Fale Alea he pule’anga ‘aho ko ia kae tuku e konisitutone ia ne fokotu’u atu mei he kōmiti ne nau savea’i e loto e kakai’ ke fai’aki ‘a e liliu.