11 Jun 2003

Tongan paper still not released by government

5:18 am on 11 June 2003

The publisher of the Taimi O Tonga newspaper says the government is again refusing to comply with a Supreme Court order to release the paper in the country.

Kalafi Moala says they were expecting to pick up the paper from Customs following Monday's ruling against the government but were told that the Finance minister is planning an appeal.

Mr Moala says he cannot believe that the government is continuing to defy orders from the Supreme court.

"We're just an aside. The big issue is that there is a standoff between the judiciary and the executive branch of government. Whatever follows on from here, we'll have to work it out, but it does indicate that there is a major structural and constitutional crisis that's happening in Tonga."

Mr Moala says they're going to go straight back to the Supreme court to file for contempt of court against the eleven individual ministers named in the injunction.

The paper has not been distributed in Tonga for the last three months because of government bans over its so-called seditious content.

The government is also proposing amendments to the constitution which would effectively curtail press freedom and abolish judicial reviews of decisions made by the country's Privy Council, comprised of the king and his nobles.

Meanwhile, Mr Moala has expressed regret at the timing of a current visit to Tonga by the New Zealand Maori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu.

She is in Nukualofa for the wedding of the Tongan king's grand-daughter.

But Mr Moala, who has called on the New Zealand governor-general to snub the king's birthday next month, says private celebrations hold less weight that state-run functions.