FAMILIES OF TONGA FERRY VICTIMS RECEIVE PAYMENT

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Those who did not file claims received $43,000 each

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Nov. 4, 2010) – The Government of Tonga this morning, November 4 handed out about 1.2 million pa'anga [US$649,000] to the next of kin of 14 victims who died in the sinking of the MV Princess Ashika ferry in August last year. Each family received a check of 80,000 pa'anga [US$43,000].

This 80,000 pa'anga [US$43,000] handout came from government to the next of kin of the victims who had not filed any civil claims against government. At the same time it is understood that those who had already filed claims could also join the handout if they withdrew their claims, but they were advised to consult with their lawyers first.

It was a sad occasion at the FWC Moulton Hall for the families of the 14 victims and many wept as they went up to receive their 80,000 pa'anga [US$ 43,000] check which brought back sad memories of the tragic event.

It was also confirmed that an initial 800,000 pa'anga [US$ 43,000] was paid out last week to next of kin of nine victims in Vava'u and to one family in Ha'apai.

Next-of-kin

The Minister of Justice Hon Samiu Vaipulu told the somber gathering of up to 30 family members at the Hall in Nuku'alofa that this was the final handing out of the "gift", referring to the money handed out for families who lost members in the tragedy. The final hand out also continues tomorrow at the Ministry of Justice office in Nuku'alofa.

Those who received their checks this morning were those who had completed certain requirements under the law to determine the rightful next of kin to receive the money.

"This hand-out is according to the law and to the rightful next of kin of a victim," the minister said.

This morning's distribution amounted to about 1.2 million pa'anga [US$649,000] in total.

The Solicitor General 'Aminiasi Kefu read out the names of 15 next of kin of the 14 victims, including two sons Sione and Heneli Filiai who lost their mother Liliani Filiai (53). They shared the 80,000 pa'anga [US$43,000] and received 40,000 pa'anga [US$21,600] check each.

The Minister of Revenue Hon Tesina Fuko and the Minister of Justice handed out the checks.

Emergency Funds

In September it was revealed by the Minister of Justice that Government had committed up to 6 million pa'anga [US$3.25 million] from its 15 million pa'anga [US$8.1 million] National Emergency Funds for the distribution of the 80,000 pa'anga [US$43,000] each for 74 lives lost in the ferry sinking.

At that time there were about 30 civil claims made against Government in the Supreme Court.

However, it is understood now that some families who had lodged claims were backing out and instead choosing to receive the handout from government.

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