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‘Claims of Fijian sovereignty need careful scrutiny’

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Taimi Media Network, May 25, 2011) – Tonga Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet, Busby Kautoke has responded to Fiji Military Commander Frank Bainimarama’s claim that Tonga breached Fijian sovereignty in the rescue of Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara as strictly a "humanitarian act."

"Much has been made of the question of sovereignty in an incident which is wholly concerned with rescue at sea and a purely humanitarian act," he said.

Tonga has been accused by Fiji of "illegally extracting" Mara, and that the "rescue" was a planned affair involving the Tongan Navy.

Kautoke refers to the destruction of Tongan navigational aids on the two islands of Telekitonga and Telekitokelau, known as Minerva Reefs earlier this year, as a clear example of Fiji breaching Tongan sovereignty.

"Claims of Fijian sovereignty need careful scrutiny, with recent events leading to the destruction of the Minerva Reefs," says Chief Secretary and Secretary to the Cabinet, Busby Kautoke. "At this lonely outpost a perfectly innocent navigational beacon, erected on the wishes of our Late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV for the benefit and safety of mariners, was officially vandalized.Such an act, for example cannot be elevated to the status of a legal argument and there is strong evidence to suggest that the full might of Fijian Sea Power, on the instructions of the military regime, was deployed to attack a defenseless and inanimate object. Sovereignty should be considered separately as the subject of bilateral engagement between the Fijian regime and Tongan diplomats."

Mr. Kautoke stated that disputes in international law are never simple, but require "diligence and clarity."

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