22 Sep 2011

Tonga yet to seek new police commissioner

9:12 pm on 22 September 2011

The Tongan government is yet to begin its search for a new police commissioner following its refusal earlier this year to roll over the contract of New Zealander Chris Kelley.

Mr Kelley's term finishes this week but he has been using up accumulated leave since early August, with the deputy police chief, Taniela Faletau, standing in as commissioner.

Radio New Zealand International reports that the government initially said it wanted a Tongan to head the force again but changed tack after an outcry over Mr Kelley's departure - then said it would seek an expatriate to fill the position, and Mr Kelley was welcome to reapply.

The Tongan prime minister's office now says the decision is up to the Australian and New Zealand governments under the five-year tripartite partnership agreement signed in 2008 with the aim of restoring credibility to the Tongan police force after riots in Nuku'alofa in 2006.

Mr Kelley's three years as commissioner have been seen as a critical part of that rebuilding process.

The New Zealand Government says however that the appointment is a decision for the Tongan government.