18 Feb 2010

Tonga's prime minister expected to appear before Ashika inquiry

11:27 am on 18 February 2010

Tonga's Prime Minister is expected to appear before the inquiry into the the sinking of the ferry Princess Ashika today in Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa.

A Royal Commission is investigating the August disaster which took 74 lives.

Richard Pamatatau reports.

"The Prime Minister, Felete Sevele is expected to appear later today following further evidence being given by the country's finance minister. Yesterday Oteni Afualo Matoto told the inquiry the then transport minister described the Princess Ashika in glowing terms as a good buy. Mr Matoto says the government was under huge pressure to buy the ferry because the ship then in use, the Olovaha, was barely seaworthy. He told the inquiry the steel plates used to cover the rust on the Olovaha were held in place by concrete and its engines had failed several times."