Pacer Plus signing followed Budapest convention signing process, Deputy PM says

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Siaosi Sovaleni (L) and 'Aminiasi Kefu

Tonga’s interim Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni has defended the signing of the Pacer Plus agreement in June.

He was responding to questions about whether the signing was illegal because it bypassed the king’s approval.

Hon. Sovaleni said the government followed the same process used to sign the Budapest Cybercrime convention before the king ratified it.

Tonga was the first Pacific country to join the Budapest Convention On Cybercrime Treaty in May.

Hon. Sovaleni said the government signed the convention followed by a public consultation before he submitted the agreement to the His Majesty for ratification.

He was speaking to a question at a press conference in Nuku’aofa yesterday whether the government had sought advice from its solicitors before signing the Pacer Plus treaty.

The question emerged after it was revealed the signing of the Pacer Plus treaty was one of the grievances the Speaker of Parliament, Lord Tu’ivakano, presented to His Majesty before a royal command was issued to dissolve the Legislative Assembly last week.

Lord Tu’ivakano claimed the government had tried to bypass the King by signing the trade agreement and the UN convention on women’s rights, CEDAW.

Hon. Sovaleni said signing and ratifying of any convention or treaty in Tonga were two different processes.

He said the power to sign any convention lay with the government, which then held public  consultations.

If the majority of the public accepted it than the government presented the agreement to the king to ratify it. If the king did not want to sign it, that was the end of it.

He said the Pacer Plus signing followed the same pattern. The government had signed it and it was awaiting the consultation process.

Once the consultation process was completed, the government would present it to the king to ratify.

However, Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu has been quoted by local media as saying the Tonga government’s signing of the Pacer Plus Trade Agreement was not valid because it was not presented to the King for approval.

Kaniva News contacted Hon. Kefu this afternoon and asked him why the Budapest Cybercrime Convention Treaty was treated differently from the Pacer Plus agreement.

In his response Kefu said what he told media was just an opinion.

“As reported by Matangi Tonga, our view is that His Majesty must approve signing, accession and ratification of any treaty, convention or protocol”, he told Kaniva News.

However, the newspaper’s website said: “The Acting Attorney General, ‘Aminiasi Kefu told Matangi Tonga today that the government must adhere to a legal approval process when signing international treaties or agreements, which must ultimately be approved by the King.”

The main points

  • Tonga’s interim Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni has defended the signing of the Pacer Plus agreement in June.
  • He was responding to questions about whether the signing was illegal because it bypassed the king’s approval.
  • Sovaleni said the government followed the same process used to sign the Budapest Cybercrime convention before the king ratified it.
  • He said the government signed the convention followed by a public consultation before he submitted the agreement to the His Majesty for ratification.

For more information

Tonga becomes first Pacific island country to join Budapest convention

PACER-Plus trade deal signed in Tonga

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