TONGA ATTORNEY GENERAL QUITS, CITES

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INTERFERENCE
Government destroying independent judiciary

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 30, 2010) - After Tonga's Attorney General, John Cauchi SC handed over his letter of resignation to the Tongan Government, he today expressed his disappointment that after the government made the initial move to establish an independent Judiciary, it lacked the political will to make it work.

In a Press Conference at his office this afternoon he said that since he was appointed as Tonga's first independent Attorney General, "I have noticed a lot of factionalism in government, which is now evident in the way government does things."

John identified that the government's practice of making decisions in secret and leaving him out of circulation had just gone "a step too far".

The last of the three instances, which he believed was very serious, was that yesterday he was informed that government two weeks ago had decided to abolish the Judicial Services Commission and to repeal the Judicial Services Commission Act.

"This to me is the final unconstitutional step required by the government to destroy the integrity and the independence of the Judiciary in Tonga. It's a very serious move and I don't believe that the government understands how serious it is. It guarantees the future selection of a judiciary, which is not independent, and I can't emphasize how serious this mistake is and there appears to be no opposition to this breach of constitutional principles. There is more than one person sitting in Cabinet and in Privy Council. They can't just sit there and allow this to happen."

John Cauchi pointed out that in Fiji they threw out their constitution to destroy the integrity and the independence of their judiciary, "this is why Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth. If Tonga can't see that, I can't help. I can't stay any longer and bash my head up against the wall and pretend that nothing is going wrong. It is wrong and it is serious."

The other two events which triggered his decision to resign were stated in his press release this afternoon as:

"Anyway, the following day that decision was made we received letters from the Ministry of Finance confirming our budget, which included the cost of these special prosecutors and also an independent investigator. The cost for the special prosecutor went through the Expenditure Review Committee and met all budgetary requirements and then it went into the Ministry and it was approved and we have the letter to prove that."

John said that the decision by the Cabinet not to support the appointment of independent prosecutors was a terrible injustice to the people who died in Ashika. "They look for justice to be done and Tonga has turned a corner that is seriously at risk."

John was appointed as Tonga's first Independent Attorney General in May last year, and his contract was not due to expire until 2012.

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