14 Jun 2013

Tongan newspaper hit with damages for defaming PM

2:43 pm on 14 June 2013

A Tongan newspaper has been found guilty of defaming the Prime Minister.

Lord Tu'ivakano and six cabinet ministers brought the case against Kele'a newspaper for a letter to the editor in October 2012 that accused some parliamentarians of being above the law.

Radio and TV Tonga reports the editor of Kele'a, Mateni Tapueluelu, and his wife Laucala, who is the publisher, were fined 69,000 US dollars each in damages and costs.

An MP 'Akilisi Pohiva represented the letter-writer, Solomone Palu, who was ordered to pay more than 34,000 US dollars.

The plaintiffs included the justice minister, Clive Edwards, who says the letter was scandalous and accused Mr Pohiva of being behind it.

"It's one of the most ridiculous cases that have been raised and it's all political. How can you call somebody a thief, a criminal and not fit to be a minister or Prime Minister because he is a crook."

Clive Edwards.

Mateni Tapueluelu says they have launched an appeal against the decision.