17 Oct 2016

Tuvalu protest stopped by PM

1:45 pm on 17 October 2016

A protest through Tuvalu's capital calling for the country's chief justice to resign has been blocked by the Prime Minister.

A former prime minister Apisai Ielemia was convicted of corruption in June, but on appeal, a stand-in judge, Normal Franzi, declared the conviction as "manifestly unsafe", and quashed the conviction and sentence.

Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga

Tuvalu's Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga Photo: RNZI / Jamie Tahana

Mr Franzi also expressed concern about the involvement of the current prime minister Enele Sopoaga in the investigation of the case.

The editor of Islands Business, Samisoni Pareti, says when Mr Ielemia returned to parliament last week, the speaker tried to eject him because of his jail time.

"Apisai of course objected, and then the office of the attorney general then went to the High Court to get a clarification. The chief justice, instead of just giving a clarification, actually gave an order saying that, yes, Apesai Ielemia is no longer qualified to be a member of parliament and he therefore declared his seat in parliament vacant."

Samisoni Pareti says this angered many supporters of Mr Ielemia, who had hoped to march down Funafuti's main street to call for the removal of the Chief Justice, Charles Sweeney.

But yesterday morning, Mr Ielemia was handed an order signed by Mr Sopoaga ordering that the protest not go beyond his personal residence.