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Country down to four

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 18, 2010) – Tonga’s Magistrate Courts have a shortage of Magistrates, with only four sitting since January this year - a dramatic decrease from about 10 Magistrates who presided in the lower court in 2009.

[PIR editor’s note: According to the U.S Department of State on Tonga, Tonga's court system consists of the Privy Council, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, the Magistrates' Court, and the Land Court. Judges are appointed by the monarch.]

Chief Police Magistrate Samiu Palu confirmed the shortage of Magistrates for the lower court. At the same he said that the Chief Registrar at the Nuku'alofa Supreme Court, Manako Vi, had become a relieving Magistrate to help with the cases.

He said a second public advertisement for the positions open for two magistrates had closed just last month, and he hoped for successful candidates as this was the second time they had advertised the position.

"The first time we had no one," he said.

Chief Magistrate Palu said they had taken note of the shortages of magistrates but they were managing cases, although it would mean cases would be slower going through.

Currently, there are only four magistrates in Tonga, with Samiu Palu, Sione 'Etika and Folau Lokotui in Tongatapu and Paula Tatafu based in Vava'u.

At the moment Ha'apai has no Magistrate, and a Magistrate in Tongatapu goes up once a month to hear their cases, he said.

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