10 Aug 2010

Court in Tonga approves death certificates for some Ashika victims

10:04 am on 10 August 2010

The Supreme Court of Tonga has approved the issuing of 50 death certificates for those whose lives were lost in the sinking of the MV Princess Ashika ferry last August.

The applications filed by the Crown Law Department was granted in a court order that stated that it is unnecessary to hold an inquest into the death of the person in the applications and authorised the registrar to issue the death certificates.

It is understood that in circumstances where a person had apparently died but their body could not be found there is no presumption of death until seven years has passed.

However, in this case of the Ashika sinking, if there is sufficient evidence of the circumstances resulting in the death and that is shown to the Supreme Court that a person had died, the death can be registered.

Matangi Tonga online says the applications filed included affidavits by family members and affidavits from the police stating that the person boarded the vessel.

Meanwhile, an application by Tonga's former Minister of Transport for a judicial review of the report of the Inquiry into the Sinking of the MV Princess Ashika has been rejected.

The report found that Paul Karalus knowingly provided false information to the authorities about the boat, which sank last August, killing 74 people.

Paul Karalus told Radio New Zealand International he was seeking to clear his name.

However Tonga's Chief Justice, Anthony Ford, says he was not persuaded Mr Karalus had made out an arguable case for a judicial review of the Royal Commission's report.