26 Mar 2010

Manslaughter charges laid in Tonga over Ashika sinking

3:24 pm on 26 March 2010

The New Zealand businessman who formerly headed Tonga's Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, John Jonesse, is one of a number of people charged with manslaughter by negligence over the sinking of the Princess Ashika.

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

Court officials say three others are facing the charge of manslaughter, including the former skipper of the Princess Ashika, Maka Tuputupu, and the acting director of Tonga's marine division, Viliami Tuipulotu.

Both Mr Jonesse and Mr Tuputupu had already been charged with other offences which came to light during the commission of inquiry into the sinking.

Our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, says earlier this week the Government formally declared that the 74 missing had died in the disaster.

"It's suspected that they have done that so that they can clear the way for manslaughter as a crime to be used against those in authority."

Mateni Tapueluelu says a charge of manslaughter has also been brought against the Shipping Corporation itself.