17 Oct 2016

Tuvalu PM explains protest restriction

3:40 pm on 17 October 2016

The Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, has defended his decision to restrict a protest last week over the chief justice.

A former prime minister Apisai Ielemia had been pushing for Chief Justice Charles Sweeney to be removed from his post because he had ruled Mr Ielemia was not eligible to resume his seat in parliament.

Mr Ielemia had been convicted of corruption, charges that were quashed on appeal.

Tuvalu's Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga, speaking at the opening of the country's High Commission in Wellington.

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

But under constitutional rules the ban on resuming his seat in parliament remained in place.

He had planned a protest but the prime minister restricted him to staging it on his property, rather the streets of Funafuti.

Mr Sopoaga says he had to take public order into account.

"Looking at their petition I think the message was there to remove the CJ [Chief Justice] of Tuvalu, and something I didn't see that allowing them to march would lead to any pragmatic solution to dealing with their greivances. And of course, removing CJ is not vested in the prime minister or the governor general of Tuvalu."