15 Feb 2011

Cross examination of witness in Tonga's Ashika trial

4:02 pm on 15 February 2011

A maritime expert in Tonga has faced cross examination today in the manslaughter trial of four men charged over the sinking of the inter-island ferry, MV Princess Ashika.

Those facing charges are former New Zealand businessman John Jonesse, who was CEO of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, the Ashika's captain Maka Tuputupu, his first mate Semisi Pomale and a former ministry of transport director Viliami Tu'ipulotu.

The Corporation has also been charged.

Vaku'ata Pola Vi is the Crown's first witness and today repeated that his advice to Mr Jonesse, before the vessel was bought, was that it was unsuitable and inadequate for Tongan waters.

Here's our correspondent in Nuku'alofa Katalina Tohi.

"Captain Vaka'uta Pola Vi insisted that he gave Mr Jonesse his honest opinion that the vessel was not suitable and the way it was designed and built was not suitable for Tonga waters. Captain Vaka'uta Pola Vi told the court that he tried hard to convince John Jonesse that the MV Princess Ashika was not fit to sail here in Tonga. He said he did advise Mr Jonesse that the vessel was designed for calm waters and not for open sea like here in Tonga, because if operated here in Tonga in open sea, the water would be coming into the vessel. He told the court that although he provided Mr Jonesse with his advice and honest opinion about the vessel, he felt that the accused was intending to purchase the vessel anyway."

Katalina Tohi reporting