TONGA GOVERNMENT WITHHOLDS FERRY REPORT

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Public to have access at unspeficified date

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 2, 2010) – Brandishing a copy of the Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Sinking of the Princess Ashika, Tonga's Minister for Communication and Information, Hon. 'Eseta Fusitu'a told the local media yesterday they could not have it.

[PIR editor’s note: On March 31, 2010, a report by Radio New Zealand International stated that the Final Report of Tonga’s Commission of Inquiry into the Sinking of Princess was a systematic failure by Government in buying a boat that was plainly unseaworthy. The Ashika sank in August last year with the loss of 74 lives. See this story.]

'Eseta had called a press conference at the main studio of the Tonga Broadcasting Commission especially, "to discuss the report".

But there was no discussion of the report. 'Eseta was holding a copy of the report as she told disappointed local media that despite the fact that copies of the report had already leaked out to the public, most important for government was for the report to go through a process before being released to the public.

She said that now it was with the Privy Council, the next stop would be parliament on Tuesday, and then, eventually, to the public, but no date had been confirmed as to when that might be.

She said that the report must be handed to the Speaker of the House before it was formally submitted to the house for its deliberation.

She believed that once these stages of formalities were completed the next procedure would be releasing the report to the public.

Meanwhile, the report has been circulating freely on the internet, and at the moment is one way that the families of the 74 people who died in the Ashika Disaster can have access to the original report. Whether read now or later, no amount of government process will change the fact that the inquiry concluded that the disaster was senseless and preventable; and this must bring cold comfort to the victims' families and the waiting public.

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