Report went to court: Tonga's parliamentary report on the Nuku'alofa reconstruction

Brown Pulu, TJ
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Te Ara Poutama, Auckland University of Technology

Chief Justice Michael Dishington Scott signed a court order in the Supreme Court of Tonga on December the 4th 2012, signifying structural reform in the South Pacific Kingdom. Whether the Kingdom of Tonga was ready or not, clued-up on what a judicial review was or not, the legal process for initiating one to get a judge to review parliamentary procedure was underway.

Dishington Scott’s Supreme Court order issued by the Nuku’alofa Registry “ordered that the application for leave to apply for Judicial Review is to be heard inter parties on 23 January, 2013 at 09:00 am in Court” (Supreme Court of Tonga, 2012). The application was made by Tonga’s former Prime Minister, Feleti Sevele, and a former Minister for Transport in his cabinet, Paul Karalus. The other party, meaning the people defending themselves against the application, were six men. They were named on the court order as “Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, Lord Lasike now known as Hikule’o Havea, Lord Tu’i’afitu, Dr Sitiveni Halapua, Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, and Posesi Bloomfield” (Supreme Court of Tonga, 2012). These men were contributors to the Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee: The Nuku’alofa Development Council/Corporation and the Reconstruction of Nuku’alofa Central Business District, dated 5 June 2012 (Parliamentary Select Committee, 2012). And it was this very report of 181 pages, which had brought about Sevele and Karalus’ joint application to the Supreme Court for a judicial review. Put simply, Sevele and Karalus wanted the report quashed.

What compelled the Prime Minister of Tonga Lord Tu’ivakano to call for a parliamentary select committee headed by the opposition leader and deputy to write this report? What did it allege to prompt court action from Sevele and Karalus? If there was a judicial review of the parliamentary system governing how and why the report was carried out, then what constitutional principles might come under the court’s examination? At the 2010 general election, this small island developing state was applauded by New Zealand, Australia, and the United States of America for moving to a more democratic system of parliament and government. In 2013, what did the report that went to court indicate about political climate change and how key actors in the new system measured up?

Te Kaharoa: The eJournal on Indigenous Pacific Issues, vol.6(1), pp.184 - 216
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