27 May 2003

Nothing illegal in wage payments for Tonga's top judge

4:10 pm on 27 May 2003

Tonga's Ministry of Justice has rejected claims by a local newspaper that the Chief Justice Gordon Ward has been illegally paid hundreds of thousands of US dollars over the past five years.

The Tonga Star, which has close links to members of the Royal Family, is campaigning for the Chief Justice to repay the money and stand aside.

It says he has been paid up to seven times more than the contracted amount as detailed on the Civil Service List.

Chief Justice Ward is English, and the Justice Ministry says the wages of expatriate judges have always been paid at levels similar to what they would command in their home countries.

The Secretary of Justice Semi Tekiteki says there is nothing untoward in Chief Justice Ward's salary.

"Judge Ward signed a contract with the government of Tonga, which is known as the Agreement of Service, ...In that agreement his salary was stated and that is the salary that he is now receiving."

Mr Tekiteki says the Ministry is very unhappy with the actions of the Tonga Star and intends making a more formal response to its claims later this week.