King Tupou VI appeared to ignore a request to revoke the appointment of his Lord Chancellor as Acting Lord Chief Justice after Lord Afeaki signed a Supreme Court decision last week.
A copy of the court judgement on November 18 showed the presiding judge was Acting Lord Chief Justice Afeaki.
In his decision, Lord Afeaki convicted and sentenced Siu’ivaha Tu’ipulotu to two years and a half or 30 months’ imprisonment.
He suspended the final nine months of his sentence for a period of two years.
The prisoner was found guilty of one count of serious housebreaking and one count of robbery.
The judicial decision came after 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.
The appointment was 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.
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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, the lawyers said.
Kaniva News understands the lawyers were 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.
“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.”
As we reported previously, 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 contacted Lord Dalgety and asked him to comment on the petition. We are awaiting a response.
———— FAKAMATALA FAKATONGA NOUNOU ————–
Mahino ‘eni ia ‘oku ‘ikai tokanga mai e tu’i’ ia ki he tautapa ne ‘oatu ‘e he kau loea ‘a Tonga’ ke ta’ofi hono fokotu’u ‘o Looti Afeaki ki he lakanga taupotu taha mo mahu’inga ko e ‘Eiki Fakamaau Lahi Le’ole’o he Fakamaau’anga Lahi ‘o Tonga’. Ne fai ha hopo he uike kuo ‘osi’ ‘i Nuku’alofa he ‘aho Tu’apulelulu 18 pea ko e Fakamaau Lahi Le’ole’o ai’ ko Looti Afeaki. Ne hoha’a e kau loea’ ko e founga e hūhū hake ‘a Afeaki ‘o ‘ela he sea ‘oku mātu’aki sivisivi’i pea aoaotangata hono kumi ha taha ki ai mei muli’ kae ‘ikai ‘ilo pe ko e ha ‘ene taukei fakafakamaau kuo ne ma’u ai e lakanga’. Ko Afeaki foki ia ‘oku sea he pēnolo ‘a e tu’i’. Ko e fatongia e pēnolo’ ke kumi ha taha taukei fe’unga ki he lakanga fakamaau ko eni 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. Na’e ‘ilo ‘e he pule’anga ‘o Tu’ivakanoo’ he 2014 ‘oku fu’u palopalema e konititutone ne fai’ pea nau ‘omai ai ‘a e mataotao ko Peter Pursglove ke ne vakai’i ‘etau konisitutone’. Na’e ‘ilo ai ‘e he taukei ko ‘eni ‘a e ngaahi matāmama lahi he konisitūtone kau ai ‘a e ngaahi me’a ne ta’efakalao mo ta’efakatemokalati kau ai ‘a e me’a ko ‘eni kuo hoha’a ki ai ‘a e kau loea’ tu’unga hono tuku ke fili toko taha ‘e he Tu’i mo ‘ene pēnolo ‘a e kau fakamāu’. Na’e paasi ai ‘a e fo’i lao ‘e ono ke fakalelei’i ‘a e palopalema ko eni ka ne ‘osi e ta’u Fale Alea ko ia’ kuo fetongi atu ia ‘e he pule’anga ‘o ‘Akilisi Pōhiva. Na’e hoko atu ‘e ‘Akilisi ‘a hono teke ke fakapaasi ‘a e ngaahi lao’ ni kae pango’ ne toe politiki ‘uli e kau hou’eiki e ‘aho ko ia’ ‘o tafoki nautolu ‘o tukuaki’i loi ko e feinga ke to’o e mafai ‘o e tu’i. Hili ko ia ko kinautolu pe he pule’anga ‘o Tu’ivakanoo’ ne nau fa’u e ngaahi lao ko ia’. Oku tukuaki’i foki ia ko e konisitūtone mo hu palopalema ko ‘eni ne lahi fa’u pe ia Looti Dalgety mo Looti Sevele ‘o ‘ave ‘o fakapaasi i Fale Alea ‘e he pule’anga ‘aho ko ia’ ‘a ia ko kinautolu pe ne tokolahi he Fale’ 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.