Noble MPs did not walk out of Parliament in 2014 when Lord Tu’ivakano’s government moved to remove the powers of Judicial Appointments and Discipline Panel to make elections in the king’s Privy Council.
The Nobles-led government also planned to put an end to the Panel in the future.
Lord Tu’ivakano’s government also moved to remove the constitutional power of the king to appoint a commissioner for the Anti-Corruption Commission, which was being planned at the time, according to the Parliament’s record (minutes) numbers 21, 22 and 23 on August, 2014.
The government also submitted to the House a Bill to remove the Attorney General from the king’s Privy Council and bring the position into the cabinet.
Other noble MPs who were in the House at the time, including Lord Nuku , Lord Tu’ilakepa and Lord Tu’iha’ateiho described the move by the government as a “liliu faka’aufuli,” (absolute change) to the constitution.
According to the minutes the noble MPs supported the bills and the amendments submitted by the government.
However, they moved in the House for the government to meet the people and consult with them about the bills. Despite heated debates in the House the Noble’s motion to take the Bills to the people was rejected after a majority ballot.
The then Minister of Justice, William Clive Edwards in his attempts to clarify the Bill for the Anti-Corruption Commission said this would made the Commission an independent body.
He told the House all the new Bills and amendments which had been tabled in Parliament were to make sure these were executive roles which had to be carried out by the government and not the Law Lords in the Panel.
In Tongan he said: “Ko e ngāue faka-executive kā ‘oku ‘ikai ke ‘ave ia ki he kau Law Lords mo e kakai ‘oku ‘i tu’a ‘oku ‘ikai ke ‘i ai hanau tu’unga he fonua ke nau tu’utu’uni. Pea ‘osi ko ia pea tau toki lele holo. Ko e ‘ū ngaahi ‘uhinga ia. Pea nau fai ‘enautolu ‘o ngāue’aki e me’a ki he ‘Ene ‘Afio ka ‘oku tau’atāina pē ‘a ‘Ene ‘Afio ‘ana.”
This translates into English as: “These are executive jobs and they are supposed not to be given to the Law Lords and people outside who have no role making decision in this country. After all, we do not know where to go. Those are the reasons. And they did it using what was there for His majesty, but His Majesty was free.”
Hon. Edwards said it had been several years since the previous government attempted to set up the Anti-Corruption Commission, but still had not happened.
Constitution review report
The then Minister of Police, Siosifa Tu’utafaiva, told the House these amendments were made after the government received a review report from a Commonwealth sponsored Constitutional expert who reviewed Tonga’s constitution.
According to Hon. Tu’utafaiva, the then Minister of Law believed there were clashes in the Constitution clauses and how they gave powers to the Panel to appoint the Attorney General, the Lord Chancellor, the Judges and Commissioner for Anti-Corruption Commission.
He said the review report supported what the then Minister of Law and Attorney General have come up with in regards to the constitutional problems the bills and the amendments had to deal with.
According to the Parliament’s minutes the Chair of the Whole House Committee said most of the noble MPs supported the Bills and the amendments to the constitution submitted to Parliament.
As Kaniva Tonga news reported last year, the review report which was conducted by Peter Pursglove said Tonga’s constitution was one the poorest in all the Commonwealth countries.
Conflict of interest
He said a conflict of interest existed because the Attorney General sat on the king’s Judicial Advisory and Discipline Panel, which had the responsibility of appointing him.
The Attorney General should be a Minister and member of both the Legislature and the Cabinet, he said.
The Pursglove report was approved by the king and was given to Lord Tu’ivakano government to work on it.
Homework for the Pōhiva government
Hon. Tu’utafaiva told the House, according to the minutes they were running out of time as the next general election was about three months away. And Parliament only had 15 days before it was closed by the king, according to the then Speaker.
Hon. Tu’utafaiva told the House to expect the rest of the works for the Bills – including the recommendation by Pursglove – to be dealt with by the incoming government. Lord Tu’ivakano was ousted by the Pōhiva government in November 2014.
In a previous interview with Kaniva Tonga news, Hon. Pōhiva said his government was working on the report as it was left in the cabinet by the previous government for them to deal with.
The Nobles walk out of Parliament
The government of ‘Akilisi Pōhiva undertook to continue working on the Pursglove report and what had been passed on from the Lord Tu’ivakano’s administration.
Some of the recent Bills they submitted to the House including ones to remove the power of the Panel to elect the Commissioner for Anti-Corruption Commission and Judges.
They were similar to the Bills submitted by the Tu’ivakano government.
The Nobles, led by Lord Nuku and Lord Tu’ilakepa, insisted these Bills should be subject to consultation with the public in face to face meetings.
After the government conducted its own radio talk back show public consultation and disagreed with the Nobles, the noble MPs and the independent MPs walked out of the House.
Lord Tu’ilakepa became Acting Speaker of the House and used his power to block the move by the government to table the Bills in the House.
The main points
- Noble MPs did not walk out of Parliament in 2014 when Lord Tu’ivakano’s government moved to remove the Judicial Appointments and Discipline Panel from the king’s Privy Council.
- The Nobles-led government also planned to put an end to the Panel in the future.
- Lord Tu’ivakano’s government also moved to remove the constitutional power of the king to appoint a commissioner for the Anti-Corruption Commission, which was being planned at the time, according to the Parliament’s record (minutes) number 21 on August 5, 2014.
For more information
Non-government MPs walk out of Tonga’s parliament
Tonga’s constitution costly, poorly written and undemocratic, report says
Pōhiva pursues expert’s advice to remove AG from Privy Council