22 Feb 2010

Tonga Prime Minister says Procurement Committee at fault for purchase of Ashika

8:27 pm on 22 February 2010

Amid heavy security the Tonga Prime Minister, Dr Feleti Sevele, has begun (monday) testifying at the enquiry into the sinking of the Princess Ashika.

The Tonga inter island ferry sank in August last year with the loss of 74 lives.

Dr Sevele's appearance had been delayed by the clean up following Cyclone Rene and he had sought more time, but the commissioners requested he appear this week.

The Prime Minister has directed his criticism for the Government buying an unseaworthy vessel at the Procurement Committee headed by Finance Minister Afu'alo Matoto.

But as our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, reports last week Mr Matoto placed the blame at the feet of the then Transport Minister, Paul Karalus.

"Because he misled him, and Cabinet, because it was only the one piece of evidence from Paul Karalus that allowed the Cabinet to approve the purchasing of the Ashika. Now the Prime Minister blames the Finance Minister."