$1.7 Million Of State Lease Payments

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Challenged In Tonga
People’s representative questions legality of funds, ownership

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, June 4, 2013) – Government payouts amounting to over $3 million pa'anga [US$1.7 million] to three royal estate holders are being challenged by Sione Taione, a People's Representative to the Tonga Legislative Assembly, who filed an application with the Nuku'alofa Supreme Court on 29 May for a Judicial Review.

He is asking the Supreme Court to make a ruling on the legality of over $3 million pa'anga in advance lease payments to three royal estate holders that were authorized by government on 23 March 2011. The leases are in the area of the Fu'amotu International Airport.

In his application he states that on 30 June 2011, $2 million was paid to Lord Kalaniuvalu by the government of Tonga, for an advance lease payment.

He also states that on 10 February 2012, $1 million was paid by the government to Prince Tu'ipelehake, for an advance lease payment; and on 16 June 2011, $119,500 was paid to Prince Tungi by government, for an advance lease payment.

In addition to these advance lease payments he stated that Cabinet also authorized the handing over of two government quarters to Fotu, a matapule, and an estate holder in the area of Lupepau'u Airport, Vava'u.

Sione said that in April 2012 he had raised his concern in parliament over whether the decision by Cabinet to pay the amounts, and to transfer the ownership of government properties was legal or illegal. He said he followed it up with a motion that he and other members of parliament tabled into parliament, seeking a resolution over their concern.

Parliament referred the motion for a resolution to a Select Committee of which Sione was a member.

He claimed that when the matter was returned from the Select Committee to the House, members did not decide the legal status of the payments already paid to the estate holders, but parliament passed an Appropriation Act to complete the payments due to the estate holders.

When Sione submitted his application to the Chief Justice on May 29, he was representing himself.

The Solicitor General, 'Aminiasi Kefu represented the 12 defendants: Lord Tu'ivakano, the Prime Minister; Samiu Vaipulu, the Deputy Prime Minister and the former Minister of Justice, Transport and Works; Sunia M. Fili, MP and the former Minister of Finance; Lord Ma'afu, Minister of Lands, Survey, Environment and Natural Resources; Lord Vaea, Minister of Internal Affairs and former Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Forests; Lisiate 'Akolo, Minister of Finance and former Minister of Labour, Commerce and Industries; 'Isileli Pulu, MP and former Minister of Tourism; 'Uliti Uata, MP and former Minister of Health; 'Ana M. Taufe'ulungaki, Minister of Education; Viliami U. Latu, Minister of Labor, Commerce and Tourism and former Minister of Police, Prisons and Fire Services; Fe'ao Vakata, Minister of Revenue and former Minister of Training, Employment, Youth and Sports; and William Clive Edwards, Minister of Justice and Public Enterprises and former Minister of Public Enterprises and Revenue Services.

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