Lavulavu trial continues this afternoon, but blood ties make it hard for witnesses

There were tears in the Supreme Court in Neiafu yesterday as witnesses told the corruption trial  of MP ‘Etuate Lavulavu  that blood ties to both sides of the case made it difficult to give testimony.

The hearing into a petition filed against the MP for Vava’u No. 16 constituency, who is also Minister for Infrastructure, on complaints of illegal campaigning and corruption has been the subject of repeated delays, appeals and adjournments.

It was adjourned again last week after 11 out of 18 witnesses for Lavulavu had testified.

The petition was filed by Viliami Uasike Latu and is being heard before Chief Justice Owen Paulsen.

Among the claims made against Lavulavu is that contracts for road construction projects were allocated corruptly.

The fact that the plaintiff (Latu) and the respondent (Lavulavu) are related by either blood or marriage to so many people giving testimony through connections within the village of Leimatua has made it hard for many witnesses.

Tears fell from Mr. Li’ekina Lavulavu as he told the court his oldest son was named after Viliami Latu and his second son was named Etuate Lavulavu Jr.

He said giving evidence was not easy for him as he was close by blood to both Viliami and Etuate.

Li’ekina gave evidence that all payment made by him to the Ministry of Infrastructure and other suppliers was on behalf of UTRI and Vava’u Road Council.

Clive Edwards, who appears for the plaintiffs, cross examined Li’ekina on whether Lavulavu was personally responsible for the cost of the Vava’u Road Council works.

However, Li’ekina repeatedly answered that responsibility for the road works  came under the Vava’u Road Council.

Officer in Charge of the Ministry of Infrastructure Automalu Tupou told the court all road construction work from July to November 2014 fell under the control of the Vava’u Road Council.

He said they were approved  by former CEO Ringo Faoliu under the community road programme.

Edwards cross examined Automalu Tupou about whether the road works came under the control of Etuate Lavulavu. Despite his repeating the question several times,  Tupou was adamant that the work was under the control of Vava’u Road Council.

In answer to questions about corruption, retired primary school teacher Aloeti Kena told the courts the school prize giving on November 26, 2014 was not a campaign function for Hon. Lavulavu.

Kena said the function was for Leimatua Women’s Development Group and Leimatua Grower’s Association. The function was chaired by Association member Sione Lisala.

Kena is also closely related by blood to both the plaintiff, Viliami Latu and the respondent, Etuate Lavulavu.

Muna Nasilai, who works as a school teacher for ‘Unuaki ‘o Tonga Royal Institute, said in her affidavit  that she helped UTRI students develop the winning website in  the Tonga in Business competition in July 2014. Ms. Nasilai gave evidence that Mr. Saia Moehau donated funds to UTRI to support Vava’u Road Council from July-November 2014.

The trial was adjourned by Chief Justice Owen Paulsen until 9am this morning (December 15).

The main points

  • There were tears in the Supreme Court in Neiafu yesterday as witnesses told the corruption trial of MP ‘Etuate Lavulavu   that blood ties to both sides of the case made it difficult to give testimony.
  • The hearing into a petition filed against the MP for Vava’u No. 16 constituency, who is also Minister for Infrastructure, on complaints of illegal campaigning and corruption, has been the subject of repeated delays, appeals and adjournments.
  • The fact that the plaintiff and the respondent are related by either blood or marriage to so many people giving testimony through connections within the village of Leimatua has made it hard for many witnesses.
  • The trial was adjourned by Chief Justice Owen Paulsen until 9am this morning (December 15).

For more information

Tongan minister’s bribery trial to continue (RNZI)

Tongan minister’s pay suspended for 5 months (RNZI)

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