Court says MP Tapueluelu’s election unlawful

Tonga’s Supreme Court has ruled that the election of Mateni Tapueluelu as MP for Tongatapu 4 to Parliament in November 2014 was unconstitutional.

According to Radio Tonga news, Justice Owen Paulsen ruled that Tapueluelu’s oath to become a member of the Tongan Parliament was unlawful.

Tapueluelu’s case was brought to court by Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu after receiving evidence from the Supreme Court Registry that Tapueluelu had breached the kingdom’s electoral laws after he failed to pay fines imposed on him by a Magistrate Court.

Kefu argued that clause 65 of the Tongan constitution stipulated that Members of Parliament could only be qualified to take their seats if they did not have an order from any “Courts in the Kingdom for the payment of a specific sum of money, the whole or any part of which remains outstanding or if ordered to pay by instalments the whole or any part of such instalments remain outstanding on the day on which such person submits his nomination paper to the Returning Officer.”

Tapueluelu’s legal team argued that Tapueluelu went through the government’s election registration procedures and was cleared to run as candidate.

They also argued that the Election Act requires that any challenges or complaints made against the election results or elected MPs must be filed within 28 days after the election.

Tapueluelu had failed to pay a fine imposed on him in 2011 after he was sued by former MP and Minister of Justice Clive Edwards over a defamatory article published in Kele’a newspaper when he was its editor.

The court was told that during the week of the elections, the newspaper published a story on its front page accusing Edwards of having a “secret list” of candidates backed by the then government for the election.

Edwards denied the claim and Tapueluelu failed to provide the court with his source of information when he was asked to do so.

Edwards represented himself in court while ‘Ofa Pouono, acting under instruction from Dr Rodney Harrison, acted for Tapueluelu.

The main points

  • Tonga’s Supreme Court has ruled that the election of Mateni Tapueluelu as MP for Tongatapu 4 to Parliament in November 2014 was unconstitutional.
  • According to Radio Tonga news, Justice Owen Paulsen ruled that Tapueluelu’s oath to become a member of the Tongan Parliament was unlawful.
  • Tapueluelu’s case was brought to court by Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu after receiving evidence from the Supreme Court Registry that Tapueluelu had breached the kingdom’s electoral laws after he failed to pay fines imposed on him by a Magistrate Court.
  • Tapueluelu had failed to pay a fine imposed on him in 2011 after he was sued by former MP and Minister of Justice Clive Edwards over a defamatory article published inKele’a newspaper when he was its editor.

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