29 May 2003

Tonga Government refuses to allow distribution of paper despite ban being lifted

6:29 am on 29 May 2003

The Tongan government is refusing to allow 2,000 copies of a banned newspaper, Taimi O Tonga, from entering the country after they were flown up from New Zealand.

Hundreds of people were reported to be waiting at distribution points in the capital, Nuku'alofa, after the chief justice ruled that the bans were illegal and the paper could be imported.

Its publisher, Kalafa Moala, says the paper was flown to Tonga on Tuesday but was immediately held up by customs.

He says customs told them that they were awaiting instructions from cabinet and the crown law office told them they were thinking about it.

Mr Moala says they fear a new legal move is being planned to keep the newspaper out.

So far the government has not publicly reacted to the court ruling or the attempt to resume newspaper sales.

The Taimi's editor in Nuku'Alofa, Mategi Tapueluelu says their lawyer is filing contempt of court charges over Customs failure to release the papers.

"We do not know how many court orders we need to get our papers out, but obviously I've got to tell you, there's no rule of law in the Kingdom at the moment.....we have no idea how long it will take. People are very impatient...Today we've been answering phones from people....We have been receiving people in our office...They want the paper.....They know it's been held at the airport."