30 Apr 2010

Tonga AG Cauchi resigns, citing government interference in judiciary

4:03 pm on 30 April 2010

Tonga's Attorney General, John Cauchi, has resigned, citing interference in the judiciary by the Government.

Mr Cauchi says several actions by the Government have effectively removed most if not all of his responsibilities.

He says these include the executive directly appointing a judge without referral to the Attorney General or the Judicial Services Commission.

Mr Cauchi says this unconstitutional and compromises the integrity of the judiciary.

He says have also refused to back his appointment of special prosecutors to help with the criminal cases that may arise from the sinking of the Princess Ashika.

"The other reason was only revealed to me yesterday there was a decision by the Privy Council no less that the Judicial Services Commission was to be abolished and the Judicial Services Commission Act to be repealed which means the appointment of judges will be a matter for an executive member of the government and not an independent body."

Mr Cauchi says the Ashika inquiry set a benchmark for transparency and openness never before seen in Tonga.

He says it exposed a level of maladministration and systemic failure but there has so far been no active response from the Government which had attempted to modify the final report before it was released.