Opposition members in the Kiribati parliament have blamed the government for January's ferry sinking.
The MV Butiraoi went down on a trip from Nonouti to Tarawa, leaving at least 80 people dead.
The Communications Minister, Willie Tokataake, said the government should not be blamed for the tragedy.
He said unknown problems caused the sinking but he also fingered the captain and owner of the vessel.
Opposition MPs mocked the minister saying he was overseas when the vessel sank.
The minister said it didn't matter whether he was in Kiribati as there were official reports of the incident.
The Opposition said the President was aware of the vessel's trip to Nonouti because it was his office that directed the vessel to deliver petrol to the island.
The government maintained the vessel was seaworthy at the time of the trip.