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Latu says he will replace kelly, who was dismissed

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Aug. 3, 2011) - The Minister of Police, Hon. Dr. Viliami Latu, said yesterday that he, as Minister of Police, would become Tonga's Acting Police Commissioner, when the Police Commissioner, Chris Kelley vacates his post on Friday, August 5.

He believed that the new government has the right to appoint him as the interim Police Commissioner because the new Privy Council had not met.

Making the announcement at the Tonga Police headquarter, Longolongo, in a press conference, the Minister said that he was in opposition to the new Tonga Police Act since its inception.

His interpretation of the Tonga Police Act 2010, which came into force in January this year, was that the new government has the right to make a decision not to renew the contract that was signed by the former government.

Dr. Latu said that the decision by the new government not to renew Chris Kelley's working contract was based on a number of factors, one was that the new government envisaged utilizing the human assets that the country has, and secondly to that, under the new law a police officer retires at 60, and Chris Kelley is 61.

The Minister was questioned because it is clearly stated in the Tonga Police Act 2010 that the power to appoint and to dismiss a police commissioner rests with His Majesty in Council and not with the Cabinet.

With regards to the legality of the decision by Cabinet not to renew the contract of Chris Kelley and to appoint the Minister as the Acting Commissioner of Police, Dr. Latu said that he was in opposition to the Act since its inception.

He said that government has formed a committee to amend the Tonga Police Act 2010 so that Cabinet will have the right to appoint a Commissioner.

He believed that the reason why the king had not formed or called a meeting of the Privy Council was because the king wanted to relinquish all his executive power to the executive, the new government.

The Tonga Police Act 2010 was one of the reforms put into place during the formation of the new system of government. It makes the police answerable to the courts and gives greater protection to the public. It also separates the police command from the politicians.

The minister was questioned on the notion that by leaving the appointment of such posts as the Police Commissioner for His Majesty in Council would avoid the politicizing of such an appointment.

The minister agreed with the suggested metaphor that the reform program is like a motorboat with its propeller broken off, it is not going anywhere and the new government is adrift. He referred to the fact that with the Privy Council being inactive the application of the law is paralyzed.

Later in the morning the Police Commissioner Chris Kelley formally announced his departure from Tonga on August 6.

"No reasons have been given for not offering a renewal of contract, but I acknowledge and accept the right of the government to employ whom they wish."

He said that he would leave Tonga "satisfied that the Tongan Police Development Program has established a great foundation of reform, re-building and institutional re-strengthening.

"The success of this programme to date can be measured in many ways but none more so than in the increase in public trust and confidence in the Police," he said.

He acknowledged that he was the first Palangi to hold the post of Commander/Commissioner of Police. "I am as proud today as I was in September 2008 to be the Commander," he said.

He said that it was purely coincidental that August 5 is the second anniversary of the sinking of the Princess Ashika "and my thoughts and prayers are with the 74 victims and their families at this time."

Chris Kelley commanded Operation Ashika the 16 days search and rescue operation by Tonga Police following the sinking of Tonga's inter-island passenger ferry near Noumuka Island on August 5, 2009.

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