The judicial committee which advised the king in Privy Council has caused instability in Tonga, Justice Minister Vuna Fā’otusia has claimed.
“These committee members were people we did not know of,” the Minister told a press conference in Nuku’alofa last week.
They were not chosen by the people, he said.
The committee was chaired by Lord Dalgety of Sikotilani Tonga and few other law lords, the Minister said.
Hon. Fā’otusia said many of the amendments to laws and the constitution passed by Parliament were vetoed by His Majesty because of this judicial committee.
“If the judicial committee did not agree with laws and amendments to the constitutions which were already passed by the Parliament that’s the end of it” the Minister said.
“You do not know this, but I would like to tell you….after the amendments and laws were passed by Parliament they were not submitted directly to the king to sign. Instead they were submitted to this judicial committee,” Hon. Fā’otusia said.
He said the committee then asked two questions about these laws or constitutional amendments and if they answered “no” to one of them, the king would not sign it.
They asked if these laws and amendments were “appropriate” for the nation. They also asked whether the amendments of the new laws were “constitutional” or not, the Minister said.
Hon. Fā’otusia, who looked concern while he was speaking to the conference, put it to the reporters to think about what he had said.
“You did not choose these people”, he told the conference.
The Minister said these laws and amendments had been submitted by Members of Parliament and they were discussed in the House by both people’s and nobles’ MPs. The government’s lawyers and solicitors also had their say on them.
The process involved important people of the nation, the Minister said.
But when they were submitted to the king they ended up in the hands of these committee members, the Minister said.
“This process and this committee have caused instability in this country,” Hon. Fā’otusia said.
“The only thing you know was that the laws were vetoed by the King, but you did not know it was this committee that had advised the king to do so.”
Hon. Fā’otusia said that was why the government proposed to amend the constitution so that the cabinet become members of the Privy Council.
This was to allow the ministers to talk and discuss directly with the king any laws or any amendments to the constitution right from the beginning to the end before the king chose to sign it or not.
He said it was a good idea to get the king involved in the process right from the start so he could really understand why MPs wanted to make or amend those laws.
The Minister said the goverment also proposed to amend the constitution so the Prime Minister could propose to the king candidates they thought appropriate to become Tongan ambassadors to foreign countries.
Hon. Fā’otusia said the proposal was not to remove the king’s power to select the Tongan ambassadors. Rather it was to allow the Prime Minister and the cabinet to become involved in the selection process because it was important to choose the best Tongans for those roles.
The Minister also said the government proposed to amend Clause 39 of the constitution, which dealt with treaties and conventions.
Hon. Fā’otusia said treaties and conventions were administrative and required the involvement of the executive branch of the government in the process.
He said the proposal to amend Clause 39 was not to remove the king’s power to ratify treaties and conventions. Instead the government’s proposal was to amend it to allow the government to get involved in the process before submitting the treaty to the king to make the final decision.
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