Supreme Court declares 2016 changes to TRU constitution unlawful

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The Supreme Court has declared void amendments to the constitution of the Tonga Rugby Union voted on at a meeting in 2016.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen made his declaration following a court case brought against the TRU by plaintiffs who argued that no notice was given to the members of the intention to vote on the amendments prior to the Annual General Meeting.

It said they were not passed by  75% of the representatives attending  the meeting  as required  by the Constitution.

“The TRU has failed to comply with clear provisions in its Constitution as a result of which unlawful decisions have been made which are significant and affect the rights of the  members,” the judge said.

Evidence was presented on behalf of the plaintiffs by Feleti Fā’otusia.

Fā’otusia is the President of the Spartan Rugby Club. The Spartan Rugby Club is part of  the Vaheloto Sub-union.

Mr. Fā’otusia is a representative of the Vaheloto Sub-union and has the right to attend and vote at Annual and Special Meetings of the TRU.

He attended the meeting on May 11, 2016. He told the court no notice was given of the business to be discussed at the meeting.

Mr. Fā’otusia said that he was not informed of the intention to amend the TRU’s  Constitution and no opportunity was given to discuss the proposed amendments with his club or sub-union.

Immediately prior to the meeting Mr. Fā’otusia was given a document containing proposed amendments to the Constitution.

These included an amendment to allow changes to the Constitution to be made on a simple majority vote, the appointment of the Prime Minister as the President of the TRU, the removal of the members’ right to elect the President, the reduction in the number of representatives of sub-unions who were members of the TRU and a quota of local players to be selected in the national team.

The court accepted that the move to amend the constitution was passed by a bare  majority and not the 75% required.

Counsel for the plaintiffs argued that while courts had been reluctant to interfere in the internal affairs of societies, the TRU’s breaches of its Constitution were serious enough to justify the Court’s  intervention in this case.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said he accepted the evidence that the voting had not met the requirements of the constitution, that no proper notice had been given and that the court had the jurisdiction to make a ruling.

The main points

  • The Supreme Court has declared void amendments to the constitution of the Tonga Rugby Union voted on at a meeting in 2016.
  • Lord Chief Justice Paulsen made his declaration following a court case brought against the TRU by plaintiffs who argued that no notice was given to the members of the intention to vote on the amendments prior to the Annual General Meeting and they were not passed by 75% of the representatives attending the meeting as required by the Constitution.

For more information 

Tonga rugby changes constitution to allow Prime Minister to become president

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