A judicial review into the report of a parliamentary select committee that investigated the loan funding for the reconstruction of Nuku’alofa is set to go ahead tomorrow April 4.
The judicial review has been filed by Lord Sevele and the former Minister of Transport, Paul Karalus in the Supreme Court, Nuku’alofa on November 30.
The plaintiffs accused the report of misinformation and misleading the public into believing that they misappropriated the $118 Million loan from China for the rebuilding of Nuku’alofa CBD after 16/11.
However, Neil Adsett, Tonga’s Attorney General told NZ Kaniva News that, “The Attorney General in Tonga is independent and non-political, unlike in many other countries such as Australia where he is a member of the cabinet. The Constitution says that I am the principal legal advisor to Government – defined as including Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly.
He said “If Cabinet or Ministers were against the Legislative Assembly (parliament) then I could not act, but in this case I am satisfied that there is no conflict with my role as advisor to Cabinet or the other limbs of government and accordingly I have advised the Speaker that I will at his request advise and represent the Select Committee that made a report on the spending of loan money to rebuild the capital.
“ The contested hearing of the application for leave to proceed with the proposed action for judicial review is now set for the 4th of April 2013.
The parliamentary privilege
“The case will not be looking at whether the report was wrong or right, if money was spent wisely or not – the case this week is all about the issue of parliamentary privilege. It is an important case in Tonga, with its recent constitutional changes that bring greater democracy and importance to the parliament.
“The Legislative Assembly is expanding its system of parliamentary committees and this case will help everyone understand how the system works.
“We say that parliament is free to organize its own affairs, for members to speak freely and committees to make reports without the prospect of people affected by this work bringing court actions to dispute the findings etc.
In Tonga of course the Constitution is the supreme law and parliament must obey it and the Court will strike down anything unconstitutional, but as long as there is no problem like that, we say that the Legislative Assembly in Tonga, like elsewhere in the world should be free to speak and report freely – and be supervised by the Legislative Assembly itself”.