BRITISH JUDGE OVERRULES TONGAN BAN ON NEWSPAPER

admin's picture

SYDNEY, Australia (ABC Online, May 26) - A banned newspaper will
go back on sale in Tonga after a British judge threw out attempts by the Pacific
nation's monarch to keep the publication out of his kingdom.

Tonga Supreme Court Chief Justice Gordon Ward dismissed King
Taufa'ahau Tupou's attempts to ban the New Zealand-published Taimi 'o Tonga
(Times of Tonga), as "an ill-disguised attempt once again to restrict the
freedom of the press".

Justice Ward also ruled out claims that the King had a royal
prerogative above the law and the constitution.

Publisher Kalafi Moala says the newspaper, banned in the kingdom
since February, will be on Tuesday's plane for the kingdom.

He says the special edition front page headline will read
"Victory for Taimi".

During the hearing, New Zealand lawyer Rodney Harrison learned
that Tonga's Privy Council had drawn up a legislation banning non-Tongan
subjects from owning or selling newspapers in the kingdom.

Moala is Tongan born but holds United States citizenship and is
considered, under Tongan law, to have renounced his Tongan citizenship.

Slapping an interim injunction on the new legislation, Justice
Ward says he is restraining the kingdom from outlawing the newspaper because
earlier bans had been unlawful and aggravated the financial strain on its
publisher.

The newspaper was banned after apparently riling the royal
family with claims "that the leaders are sodomising each other".

The kingdom had expressed disquiet at the newspaper's content,
insisting it would have a detrimental effect on the public.

However Justice Ward said in his judgment he could find no
evidence supporting the claim.

Justice Ward, an English judge, is himself under severe pressure
from a royal and government backed bid to impeach him.

In common with many judicial figures around the Pacific, Justice
Ward receives salary supplementation through British aid.

The chief justice's Tongan civil list salary is 28,670 pa'anga
(US$13,142) but the royal-backed Tonga Star newspaper claims he is
receiving over 200,000 pa'anga a year.

"And in the last five years, he would have received
approximately one million pa'anga, that's more zeroes than majority of the
Tongan people will ever see in 10 lifetimes," the newspaper said.

"And in essence, this is a direct deception of His Majesty,
the King of Tonga and his people."

The newspaper says a petition to impeach the chief justice is
being drawn up.

May 27, 2003

ABC Online: www.abc.net.au 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment