19 Oct 2017

Sport: Changes to Tonga Rugby's constitution ruled unlawful

3:07 pm on 19 October 2017

Changes made to the constitution of the Tonga Rugby Union have been ruled unlawful by the country's Supreme Court, leaving the organisation in crisis after the positions of the Board, CEO and President were declared void.

In a ruling delivered earlier this month, Lord Chief Justice Paulsen said the Tonga Rugby Union "failed to comply with clear provisions in its constitution," at a meeting in May 2016, "as a result of which unlawful decisions were made which are significant and affect the rights of the members."

Any amendments to the Union's constitution must be passed by 75 percent of representatives attending the meeting.

The court ruled that a proposed amendment to allow changes by a majority vote did not meet the required threshold and any subsequent amendments, including the appointment of Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva as TRU President and the removal of members' right to elect the President, were deemed unlawful, as they only passed by a bare majority of the 32 representatives in attendance.

Tonga Rugby CEO, former international and proud dad, Fe'ao Vunipola

Fe'ao Vunipola's role with the Tonga Rugby Union is now void. Photo: Tonga Rugby Union

The defendants, the Tonga Rugby Union and the Interim Chair and President at the time, Fe'ao Vunipola, did not call any evidence and Justice Paulsen said "if the TRU disagrees with the conclusions he reached it only has itself to blame."

The decision effectively ruled out any decision or appointment made after the amended constitution was accepted as illegal, with the original version of the constitution to be recognised.

Tonga's Acting Attorney General, Aminiasi Kefu - who was acted as a representative of World Rugby on the TRU Board - is helping to set up a new Annual General Meeting, to be held in December.

Tonga's Acting Attorney-General 'Aminiasi Kefu

Tonga's Acting Attorney-General 'Aminiasi Kefu Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta