FORMER TONGA JUDGE: FERRY REPORT WITHHELD

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Andrew says government buried critical report

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 6, 2010) – Tonga’s Prime Minister had made an "unwarranted attack on the judiciary" Justice Warwick Andrew said today in a statement answering assertions made by Dr. Feleti Sevele last week in a row over the judge's resignation and early departure from Tonga.

Justice Andrew, who left Tonga abruptly on August 30, today said that the assertion made by the Prime Minister of Tonga that his resignation as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Tonga had put the Government "in the lurch" was an unwarranted attack on the Judiciary.

On July 5 Justice Andrew gave three months notice under his contract to resign as a Judge and he said today that any suggestion that he was not prepared to complete the hearing or determination of cases before him was incorrect.

The Judge came back to Tonga from his leave to hear a case on 27 August and other cases, some involving government, but he said it was made clear on his return, just prior to the start of proceedings that he was not to hear any cases or carry out any duties. Justice Andrew said he was directed by the Acting Secretary for Justice on 27 August to hand over all files to Acting Chief Justice Shuster.

Justice Warwick Andrew who chaired the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Sinking of the Motor Vessel Princess Ashika stated today that the report on the tragedy still had not been released to the public by the Tonga Government.

"Seventy-four people died in the tragedy, including all the women and children on board. The Prime Minister of The Kingdom of Tonga and other Ministers gave evidence. The report was presented to His Majesty and the Government on the 31st March 2010. The report was highly critical of the Prime Minister and other Public Servants. It also contained many recommendations to prevent a similar tragedy in the future."

He said that government, instead of releasing the report, "To the contrary, Cabinet resolved to fund a legal challenge to the Report. The former Minister of Transport Mr. Paul Karalus, commenced legal proceedings seeking to stop the publication of parts of the report and claim damages from the Royal Commission and an apology."

Since the presentation of the Report to the King and the Government on the 31 March 2010 there had been at least two other maritime related tragedies in Tonga, Justice Andrew said.

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