Lord Nuku will keep title, estate after court case says Attorney general

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Lord Nuku will remain in Parliament for the next four years despite being ordered by court to pay $3 million pa'anga to Lord Luani.

Lord Nuku will not be stripped of his title and estates despite being ordered by the courts to pay TP$5 million to Lord Luani.

As Kaniva News reported yesterday, the Land Court has ordered Lord Nuku and a Chinese mining company to pay the current Lord Luani TP$5,556,000 in compensation for a dispute over a block of land in Malapo.

Since the story appeared, Tongans have been using social media to speculate about whether rules that can be used to strip nobles of their title and estate if convicted of a crime could apply.

There has been some confusion about how the rules apply.

Under Clause 23 of the constitution, no civil servant or Member of Parliament convicted of a criminal offence shall hold office under the government or shall be qualified to vote for nor to be elected a representative of the Legislative Assembly, unless he has received from the King a pardon, together with a declaration that he is free from the provisions of this clause.

The Land Act section 37 also states that if a noble has been convicted in the Supreme Court, he can be stripped of his title along with his estate.

However, Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu said Clause 23 of the constitution and section 37 of the Land Acts only applied if the noble was convicted in the Supreme Court of criminal offences that entailed a jail sentence of two years or more.

He said Lord Nuku was not convicted in the Supreme Court of criminal offence. He was convicted and sentence in a civil court case and so he would retain his title and estate.

Lawyer Sione Fonua, who represented Lord Luani in court, said that according to Tongan law, Lord Nuku could file an appeal, but he must convince the judge he has good grounds to do so.

In 2012 Lord Lasike’s title and estate were stripped of after he was convicted for illegal possession of 2.22 ammunitions.

His conviction was overturned by a Court of Appeal decision and his title and estates were restored.

It was his case that triggered a move by nobles in Parliament to pass a law to reduce the penalties for the illegal possession of firearms from seven years imprisonment to only one year, as well greatly reducing the fines that can be imposed.

Akilisi Pohiva, then leader of opposition, said the law had been passed by parliament only to serve the interests of two of its noble representatives.

He referred to Lord Tu’ilakepa and Lord Tu’iha’ateiho who at the time face court cases after they were charged with possessing ammunition and firearms without licenses.

The main points

  • Lord Nuku will not be stripped of his title and estates despite being ordered by the courts to pay TP$5 million to Lord Luani.
  • Since we carried a story about the court case, Tongans have been speculating about whether provisions that can be used to strip nobles of their title and estate could apply.
  • Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu said Clause 23 of the constitution and section 37 of the Land Acts only applied if the noble was convicted in the Supreme Court of criminal offences that entailed a jail sentence of two years or more.
  • Lord Nuku was not convicted in the Supreme Court of criminal offence. He was convicted and sentence in a civil court case and so he retain his title and estate.

For more information

Land Court finds Lord Nuku and mining company were trespassing

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