Attorney General considered acting for NDC committee

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Tonga Attorney General Mr Neil Adsett clarified his position as Attorney General of Tonga in a matter related to a judicial review filed by Lord Sevele o Vailahi and Paul Karalus against the Parliament Committee that investigated the Nuku’alofa Development Corporation that managed the Multi-Million pa’anga loan from China for the reconstruction of Capital Nuku’alofa after 16/11.

The committee was led by long- time democratic activist, ‘Akilisi Pohiva and 5 other members and their report submitted to parliament in June 2012 was blasted by Former Prime Minister of Tonga, Lord Sevele together with Paul Karalus , a minister for Transport in Lord Sevele’s government, saying that their names were tarnished by  some of the clauses in the report.

Mr Adsett said that, “There has been a report on the radio about this and some misunderstanding has resulted.

“ I have said that ordinarily the Attorney General would be happy to advise and represent committees of the Legislative Assembly. This I see as being part of my job under the Constitution as principal legal advisor to Cabinet and Government.

“ I have not seen the court papers in this action, but from reports I have received it seems that an important matter of public law is in question – namely whether the internal proceedings of the parliament are open to review by the courts.

“ In such an issue I am sure that the Attorney General, as principal legal advisor to Cabinet and Government, should try to place arguments on the law before the courts.

“I indicated that the Attorney General would consider acting for this and other parliamentary committees – as a committee, not for the individual members.

“If this came about it would not be unusual, or taking sides within the government system, but merely representing the interests of parliament.

“I did not see any controversy in this stance. I have still not seen the court papers or decided if it is possible to represent the committee. The alternative would be for the Attorney General to attend the court and ask to be given the right to be heard and present legal arguments as what is called amicus curiae.

“ I met with members of the Committee yesterday and conveyed this information, and will decide my position after I have seen the court papers, and, as I indicated to the Speaker and the committee, after I have seen the Prime Minister and confirmed his attitude.

“ This office is not concerned with who is right or wrong, our concern is with clarifying the important constitutional issue of whether the internal procedures of the parliament are subject to review in the courts.

I consider that with a revised constitution and with the Legislative Assembly establishing new procedures and committees, it is to be expected that matters like this will have to be decided and I expect that as the independent Attorney General I will be able to assist.”

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