Judicial review over Government of Tonga alleged illegal lease payments

Tonga Democratic Party (TDP) member MP Sione Taione applied on May 29 to the Supreme  Court in Nuku’alofa for a judicial review of the government multi-million payments to three royal estate holders.

Taione claims the decision for the alleged illegal payments was made on March 23, 2011 and on June 30, 2011,  $2 million pa'anga was paid to Lord Kalaniuvalu. On February 10, 2012,  $1 million pa'anga was paid to Prince Tu'ipelehake and on June 16, 2011  $119,500 pa'anga was paid to Prince Tungi.

The matter was raised in Parliament early last year and again in the Party’s submission for a Vote of No Confidence against the Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakano in July 2012.

At one stage, Taione told the house he had the minute of the cabinet meeting number 205 with its decision to “immediately” pay Lord Kalaniuvalu $3.7 milion for a 99 years lease.

He said according to documents he obtained the payment has already been made to Kalaniuvalu without signing the deed of lease which was an absolute breach of Land Codes sections 124 and 126.

Deputy Prime Minister, Hon SamiuVaipulu insisted the lease payments went through government procedures and that they were legal.

Mr. Neil Adsett, Tonga’s Attorney General confirmed in a letter printed by Kele’a Newspaper at the time that the lease payments were illegal citing section 19 of the constitution says “no money shall be borrowed or expended by the Government except by the prior vote of the Legislative Assembly”.

The lease payments did not go through the Parliament.

The Prime Minister survived the vote of no confidence last year because he got the majority but the Party undertook to take their submission further with court and Taione’s judicial review application is one of the alleged corruption cases the Party had in their vote of no confidence's supporting documents.

Another government's alleged corruption case is taken to the Supreme Court of Appeal by MP ‘Akilisi Pohiva where he sued Princess Pilolevu and her Tongasat company, Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano and Hon Clive Edwards for their involvement in an alleged illegal transference of a million grant from China to Tonga to the Princess’s company.

The Solicitor General, 'Aminiasi Kefu acts for the government and Taione represents himself.

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