By-election for Tongatapu 4 goes ahead despite Tapueluelu appealing court decision, AG says

Disqualified MP Mateni Tapueluelu

The by-election for Tongatapu 4 electorate will go ahead despite an appeal by disqualified MP Mateni Tapueluelu.

Tapueluelu was found by Chief Justice Owen Paulsen to have breached Clause 65 of the Tongan Constitution because he registered himself to run for Parliament while he had an outstanding court debt.

Tonga’s Acting Attorney General, ‘Aminiasi Kefu, told Kaniva News this morning (December 22) he received Tapueluelu’s appeal of the judicial decision against him yesterday afternoon. It was registered at the Supreme Court’s Registry Office on Friday 18, six days after Mr Justice Paulsen issued his findings.

However, Kefu said the registration and submission of the appeal at Supreme Court last week could not stop the Speaker of the House from declaring Tapueluelu’s disqualification as an MP and applying for the processing of a by-election to elect a successor.

“Section 6 of the Legislative Assembly Act stipulates that a by-election must be processed [once a member was disqualified] and there is no part of that section that says section 6 must be suspended if there is an appeal,” Kefu said in Tongan.

Kefu said Tapueluelu has already been stripped of his salary and other entitlements he received as an MP.

He said Tapueluelu could only continue to obtain his salary and Parliamentary entitlements if the Court of Appeal ordered a stay of execution of the Supreme Court decision.

The Acting AG said Tapueluelu submitted his appeal together with an application to stay the execution of the judicial decision declaring his election was unconstitutional.

Kefu said the only time the effect of Section 6 of the Legislative Acts could be deferred was when the Court of Appeal ordered a stay of execution. This was the only decision that could stop the Speaker of Parliament and Election Commissioner from beginning the process of holding a by-election.

Kefu said there were two Court of Appeal sessions each year. The next session will be in March 29, 2016. Thatʻs when Tapuelueluʻs appeal will be heard.

Tapueluelu however can apply for stay of execution in January next year and such application could be brought before the Lord Chief Justice, Kefu said.

He said a decision on Tapuelueluʻs appeal should be made before the Legislative Assembly resumed in May next year.

The Acting AG also said he advised the Parliament’s Chief Clerk to hold processing of the by-election until any decisions on Tapueluelu’s appeal was heard. But he said it was entirely up to the Chief Clerk and Speaker of the House to make their final decision on it.

The Chief Clerk of Tonga’s Legislative Assembly did not respond to our request for comment.

The main points

  • The by-election for Tongatapu 4 electorate will go ahead despite an appeal by disqualified MP Mateni Tapueluelu.
  • Tapueluelu was found by Chief Justice Owen Paulsen to have breached Clause 65 of the Tongan Constitution because he registered himself to run for Parliament while he had an outstanding court debt.
  • Tonga’s Acting Attorney General, ‘Aminiasi Kefu, told Kaniva News this morning (December 22) he received Tapueluelu’s appeal of the judicial decision against him yesterday afternoon.
  • However, Kefu said the registration and submission of the appeal at Supreme Court last week could not stop the Speaker of the House from declaring Tapueluelu’s disqualification as an MP and applying for the processing of a by-election to elect a successor.

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