19 Feb 2010

Tonga Prime Minister now set to front Ashika Commission next Monday and Tuesday

5:41 pm on 19 February 2010

After several delays the Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Feleti Sevele, is now expected to give evidence to the inquiry into the sinking of the ferry, the Princess Ashika, next Monday and on Tuesday evening.

The commission of inquiry into the disaster, which claimed 74 lives, has been sitting since late October and is due to submit a report next month.

Dr Sevele had been scheduled to speak this week but was delayed by Cyclone Rene.

He sought a further extension but our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, says the Commissioners refused to grant it.

"The Commission was getting a little heated as the Prime Minister was asking for three more weeks due to the Cyclone. He was saying he wouldn't be available for the next 3 weeks and the Commission made it clear that the Prime Minister cannot, and I quote 'make a dictatorial demand on when he is available, because he is in the country' and therefore they made the direction that if he is not available in the next three weeks, he will have to be summoned to explain why. After that the Prime Minister consented to appear next Monday."