4 May 2020

Former Tokelau public servants to appeal High Court decision

4:59 pm on 4 May 2020

Two former Tokelauan public servants will appeal a Tokelau High Court decision over their dismissals.

Heto Puka and Jovilisi Suveinakama were fired in 2017 for their involvement in spending millions in government funds on two helicopters.

Heto Puka, (left), and Jovilisi Suveinakama

Heto Puka, (left), and Jovilisi Suveinakama Photo: RNZ Pacific

The pair sued Tokelau's government and leaders, and last year the High Court ruled their dismissals were lawful, but a previous move to suspend them without pay was illegal.

In a statement this afternoon, the plaintiffs said they will appeal this, alleging Tokelau's government breached natural justice.

"The appeal will allege that the Government of Tokelau failed to treat the appellants fairly and breached natural justice principles on multiple occasions at virtually every stage of the process. These breaches are also breaches of the employment contracts."

Mr Puka and Mr Suveinakama are being represented by Wellington barrister John Goddard.

If the appeal is heard, it would be the first ever case brought before the Tokelau Court of Appeal.

The landmark High Court ruling in July was the first substantive ruling from the court, and followed two years of political turmoil in the territory over the affair. In November, the court ruled New Zealand's administrator to Tokelau played a key role in the illegal suspensions.