29 Apr 2010

Tonga judicial moves suspected to be unconstitutional

9:08 am on 29 April 2010

There are concerns that the Tonga Government's efforts to take more control of the appointment of judges are unconstitutional.

This comes as the country prepares to appoint a new Chief Justice to replace Justice Anthony Ford who has not been asked to stay on when his term ends in September.

Don Wiseman has more

"Last month, the Privy Council re-appointed Justice Robert Shuster as a Supreme Court judge - a move the Attorney General, John Cauchi advised, is higly irregular, contrary to conventional practice and possibly unconstitutional. The appointment was made without reference to Mr Cauchi or the Solicitor General, and may not meet the requirements of the Commonwealth, which is funding the position. There have also been concerns raised about the performance of Justice Shuster and attempts have been made to have him impeached, but the Government has indicated it regards him as a potential candidate for the position of Chief Justice. The moves come at a critical time as the country is still to properly consider the report into the sinking of the Princess Ashika. That report was strongly critical of senior members of the Government while some officials have already been charged. Additional criminal charges are possible and two weeks ago Mr Cauchi announced he was bringing in two prosecutors, one from New Zealand, the other from Australia, to help his office in the cases."