16 Nov 2009

State of Tonga's Ashika ferry criticised a month before sinking

2:46 pm on 16 November 2009

A marine officer in Tonga says he told the Minister of Transport the Princess Ashika was 'not good' about a month before the ferry sank.

Lisiate Vuni Latu was appearing before the Royal Commission of Inquiry investigating the disaster, which claimed more than 70 lives on August the 5th.

Jo O'Brien has more.

"The marine officer from the Ministry of Transport's marine division says he attended a meeting with the former Minister of Transport, Paul Karalus and the acting director of the marine division Viliami Tuipulotu in early July. Mr Latu says during the meeting he told the Minister the Princess Ashika was 'not good'. He says Mr Karalus replied the ferry would become the property of the Ministry to assist with the transport of building materials. Mr Latu says he told other people the vessel should be stopped as it suffered from widespread corrosion, and would have taken six months to make seaworthy. And the deputy Chairman of the government's procurements committee Sione Taumoepeau has testified the decision to buy the ferry was back to front. He says a contract of sale for the ferry was signed before the committee's opinion was sought on the purchase."