Speaker has no power to advise king to dissolve Parliament says Justice Minister

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Hon. Sione Vuna Fa’otusia said this meant there was room to challenge the decision in court. Photo/Facebook

There is no clause in the Tongan Constitution which says the king can dissolve Parliament on the advice of the Speaker of Parliament, the Minister of Justice told Kaniva News today.

Hon. Sione Vuna Fā’otusia said this meant there was room to challenge in court the involvement of the Speaker in the decision.

His Majesty King Tupou VI dissolved Parliament after he received recommendations from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Lord Tu’ivakanō, who was Prime Minister before Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva.

Acting Attorney General Aminiasi Kefu said the decision to dissolve Parliament was part of the king’s royal prerogatives and it could not be challenged in court.

However Hon. Fā’otusia disagreed and said the decision by the king, based on a recommendation from the Speaker, was not a royal prerogative, but was a statutory .

“The Acting Attorney General does not think so! But I think that there is a ground for judicial review as the decision was not royal prerogative, but statutory!”, Hon. Fāʻotusia told Kaniva News.

“There is nothing in the constitution to allow the king to dissolve the house based on the recommendation of the Speaker.

“What the king did is not considered proper i.e. to dissolve a duly elected government of the people based on the recommendation of the Speaker.

The instrument of dissolution unequivocally stated that “having considered advice from the lord speaker of the legislative assembly, … [they] do lawfully dissolve the legislative assembly…”, the Minister said.

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva said on Wednesday the king had the power to dissolve the Legislative Assembly.

He said he received recommendations from lawyers that the government could challenge the “second part” of the royal directive, which referred to the king’s order to put his government on the caretaker mode.

The recommendations were based on clause 50A of the Constitution, which says the Prime Minister would continue holding his office even if the Parliament was dissolved.

The Constitution says the Prime Minister will hold his office until: “(c) he dies, resigns, or his appointment is revoked after he ceases to be an elected representative for any reason other than the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly;”

Hon. Pōhiva said he would not seek any legal action against the king’s decisions.

The Constitution clearly states the two bodies which can advise the king are Privy Council and the Prime Minister.

This is what the constitution says:

“Constitution and powers of Privy Council

(1) The King shall appoint a Privy Council to provide him with advice. The Privy Council shall be composed of such people whom the King shall see fit to call to his Council.

(2) If any case shall be heard in the Land Court relating to the determination of hereditary estates and titles, it shall be lawful for either party thereto to appeal to the King in Privy Council which shall determine how the appeal shall proceed and the judgment of the King in Privy Council shall be final.

(3) Privy Council may by Order in Council regulate its own procedures”.

According to the Constitution the Prime Minister has the power to recommend His Majesty remove the Speaker of Parliament according to Clause 61 (3). The clause says:

“If the Prime Minister, with the approval of at least half of the members of the Legislative Assembly, recommends to the King that the Speaker be removed from office, the King shall revoke the Speaker’s appointment and appoint a new Speaker on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly.”

The main points

  • There is no clause in the Tongan constitution which says the king can dissolve Parliament on the advice of the Speaker of Parliament, the Minister of Justice told Kaniva News
  • Sione Vuna Fa’otusia said this meant there was room to challenge the decision in court.
  • His Majesty King Tupou VI dissolved Parliament after he received recommendations from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Lord Tu’ivakano, who was Prime Minister before Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva.
  • “There is nothing in the constitution to allow the king to dissolve the house based on the recommendation of the speaker,” Hon. Fa’otusia said.

For more information 

Challenge to king’s action has no basis in law or Constitution, says acting AG

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