7 Dec 2009

Tongan ferry hearing resumes today

5:59 am on 7 December 2009

A Royal Commission of Inquiry into the sinking of the Tonga ferry, the Princess Ashika, in which more than 70 people died, resumes this morning.

The inquiry was adjourned last month after hearing evidence from the ship's captain, Viliami Makahokovalu Tuputupu, who's been recalled to the witness stand.

Annell Husband reports.

"Mr Tuputupu's previous evidence revealed that although he believed the Ashika to be unseaworthy and despite accepting ultimate responsibility for his passengers' safety, he didn't feel he could stop the vessel from sailing. The Australian barrister acting as counsel assisting, Manuel Varitimos says following Mr Tuputupu's questioning today, others appearing are two crew members who were on watch, the first mate and another person on watch. He says on Friday the auditor general will give evidence, as he was on the procurement committee, and the third engineer also appears on that day. Next week the commission will hear from Ports Authority officials, including its general manager Commander Lupeti Vi, the solicitor general, who was also on the procurement committee, as well as transport department staff and other crew members. The hearing adjourns on the 18th of December until the 12th of January."