29 Aug 2017

Deposed Tongan PM urged to take legal action

6:33 pm on 29 August 2017

The government of 'Akilisi Pohiva in Tonga has been urged to take legal action over King Tupou VI's dissolution of parliament.

Tonga's Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva arrives at the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby

Tonga's Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva arrives at the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby Photo: Koro Vaka'uta / RNZ

A former adviser to the government, Lopeti Senituli, told Kaniva Pacific he disagreed with legal views that the order could not be challenged in court.

Mr Senituli said the government should seek an immediate injunction on the dissolution and a judicial review of the proclamation.

He based this on a Supreme Court decision last year that stopped the King awarding the current chief of defence staff with the hereditary noble title of Lord Fielakepa.

The court declared the King's appointment was null and void, saying while it was his prerogative to appoint nobles he must make those appointments according to the the spirit of law.

Mr Senituli said parliament was the highest democratic mechanism in Tonga and the current structure was adopted after reforms in 2010 with the full approval of George Tupou V.

Lopeti Senituli

Lopeti Senituli Photo: Australian government

He said the functioning of the Legislative Assembly should therefore only be disturbed or interfered with in extreme circumstances.

The Speaker, Lord Tu'ivakano, claimed a series of alleged threats to the King's prerogative justified his request for a dissolution, but Mr Senituli said the various bills should be tabled and discussed by the Legislative Assembly so further debate could follow.

He said "dissolving the Legislative Assembly because of the fear of these alleged threats to His Majesty's Prerogative is an extreme knee-jerk reaction of people who are afraid of the democratic process!"

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