GOVERNMENT MEDIA STATEMENT ON M/V "SARA"

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GOVERNMENT OF TONGA Nuku‘alofa, Tonga

News Release October 14, 2002

The Tonga Government has banned the registration of new vessels since January 2002. The Greece-based office, Tonga International Registry of ships, was terminated in August 2002. These timely and considered decisions taken by the Tonga Government were in compliance with its obligations under national and international law.

Any registered vessel found carrying illicit cargo or involved in illicit activities will be immediately de-registered by the registrar, according to the law. A proper procedure according to law includes confirmation of the facts coming directly from the relevant government through diplomatic channels, and its marine or port authorities.

In the two previous incidents involving Tongan vessels (which Tonga had immediately de- registered), requests for boarding and results of inspection were transmitted immediately from the countries involved through the normal procedures.

To date, of the 170 registered vessels, two have been de- registered, one for carrying ammunitions, and another for carrying illegal refugees. With reference to M/V "Sara", the Government has not received official confirmation of the matter and until the facts are verified and proper procedures according to law are followed, M/V "Sara"’s registration stands. However she will be de- registered immediately if its is verified to have been carrying illicit cargo or activities.

This policy reflects the Government commitment to the international efforts against terrorism, and its resolve to act promptly according to law.

SPF Bloomfield Assistant Deputy Ships Registrar

Distributed by: Government Information Unit Prime Minister’s Office Nuku‘alofa, TONGA Tel: (676) 24 644 Fax: (676) 23 888 Email: [email protected]  or [email protected]  Website: www.pmo.gov.to 

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