2 May 2010

NZ downplays rift over judiciary in Tonga

6:09 am on 2 May 2010

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully is playing down a rift between the Tongan Government and its former attorney general about the appointment of judges.

John Cauchi resigned on Friday, citing Government interferrence in the judiciary.

The Tongan government says the job proved beyond Mr Cauchi's abilities and describes his actions as inappropriate activism.

Mr McCully says Tonga is going through a dramatic process of transformation from a feudal monarchy to a democracy.

He says it's a complex situation and it's important for this country to encourage and support the process towards democracy.

Mr McCully says the Government is in regular contact with Tonga and when it has legitimate concerns, it will raise them.

However, Labour says the Government needs to express concern about claims the Tongan government is interferring with the judiciary.

Associate foreign affairs spokesperson Phil Twyford says people in Tonga look to New Zealand to be an advocate for good governance, democracy and human rights.