Tuvalu Protest For Resignation Of Chief Justice Stopped By PM

Chief Justice ruled that former PM vacated parliamentary seat with corruption conviction

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, October 14, 2016) – A protest through Tuvalu's capital calling for the country's chief justice to resign has been blocked by the Prime Minister.

A former prime minister Apesai Ielemia was convicted of corruption in June, but on appeal, a stand-in judge, Normal Franzi, declared the conviction as "manifestly unsafe", and quashed the conviction and sentence.

Mr Franzi also expressed concern about the involvement of the current prime minister Enele Sopoaga in the investigation of the case.

The editor of Islands Business, Samisoni Pareti, says when Mr Ielemia returned to parliament last week, the speaker tried to eject him because of his jail time.

"Apesai of course objected, and then the office of the attorney general then went to the High Court to get a clarification. The chief justice, instead of just giving a clarification, actually gave an order saying that, yes, Apesai Ielemia is no longer qualified to be a member of parliament and he therefore declared his seat in parliament vacant."

Samisoni Pareti says this angered many supporters of Mr Ielemia, who had hoped to march down Funafuti's main street to call for the removal of the Chief Justice, Charles Sweeney.

Mr Sweeney is Mr Sopoaga's former personal lawyer.

But yesterday morning, Mr Ielemia was handed an order signed by Mr Sopoaga ordering that the protest not go beyond his personal residence.

Radio New Zealand International
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