25 May 2016

Sport: Tonga Rugby Union heading to court

1:29 pm on 25 May 2016

The Tonga Rugby Union is heading to court to answer claims the election of a new executive was unconstitutional.

The Prime Minister, 'Akilisi Pohiva, was appointed Chair and President of the TRU at a meeting earlier this month.

The meeting also voted to amend the Union's constitution.

Mr Pohiva replaces Fe'ao Vunipola, who was elected on an interim basis in December, following the resignation of Epeli Taione.

The former Tonga Rugby Union CEO, Fuka Kitekei'aho, said they have evidence both meetings were held in breach of the Union's constitution and a court hearing has been schedule for next month.

"We have a couple of issues on that. First is the constitutionality of that amendment and second is to amend the constitution it's required at 75 percent of those people attending the meeting and we have information that they didn't achieve that and we have put affidavits in and we have filed it together with the court to go together with our initial issue. Now we have two issues in front of court."

Fuka Kitekei'aho also challenged Vunipola's election as Interim Chair and President back in December, claiming it too was unconstitutional.

The Interim CEO of the Tonga Rugby Union, Talanoa Fuka Kitekei’aho.

The Interim CEO of the Tonga Rugby Union, Talanoa Fuka Kitekei’aho. Photo: Tonga Rugby Union

He said representatives from outer island unions should not have been allowed to vote in the election because the sub-unions had not held district rugby competitions in the past four years.

Mr Kitekei'aho also claimed that Fe'ao Vunipola received more votes than the number of people registered to attend the meeting and has called for a recount.

The dispute was scheduled to go into arbitration but the former CEO argued the TRU was deliberately delaying that process, a claim Mr Vunipola rejected.

Interim Chair and President of the Tonga Rugby Union, Fe'ao Vunipola, packing down against the All Blacks in the 1999 World Cup.

Former TRU Interim Chair and President Fe'ao Vunipola packing down against the All Blacks in the 1999 World Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The entire case will be heard in court on June 20 and Fuka Kitekei'aho said even if the election of 'Akilisi Pohiva is proven to be constitutional, his position will depend on whether the court rules the December meeting that elected Fe'ao Vunipola also followed proper procedures.

"If we win everything thereon will be null in void. The second meeting they had to amend the constitution, despite the fact that the judge was warning them don't hold any more meetings until this is sorted out because all the legality of management and everything is based on our initial case, but they proceeded and called a meeting," he said.