31 Mar 2010

Tongan Transport Minister pinpointed in final Ashika Inquiry report

9:43 pm on 31 March 2010

The Final Report of Tonga's Commission of Inquiry into the Sinking of Princess Ashika says there was a systematic failure by Government in buying a boat that was plainly unseaworthy.

The Ashika sank in August last year with the loss of 74 lives.

The Commission's report follows five months of testimony about a vessel that was riddled with rust and yet allowed to sail.

The report has been received by the King, Cabinet and Speaker, with some media also obtaining a copy.

Our correspondent Mateni Tapueluelu says it points to problems at the highest level.

"It does zero down on the former Minister of Transportation, Paul Karalus, saying that he lied; he knew when he provided false information to various authority, beginning with the King, the Prime Minister, the government and parliament and even to the media. And the Commission is saying that he knew at the time the information that he told the King, that due diligence was done on the Ashika, was false."

Meanwhile, Ofa ki Levuka Guttenbeil Likiliki of the Women's and Children's Crisis Centre in Tonga says it's important that the general public gets to see the report in its entirety.

She also stresses that it should be quickly translated into Tongan.

At the grassroots level the first thing is that there will be a language barrier because the report is in English, so we are hoping that there'll be quite a quick turn around period for translating the report in its entirety and that it will be presented with the facts as they came out of the inquiry.