11 Aug 2009

It was up to captain to stop Princess Ashika sailing says Tonga's PM

6:20 am on 11 August 2009

Tonga's prime minister, Feleti Sevele, says it was up to the captain to stop the Princess Ashika sailing if he felt she was unsafe to sail.

Dr Sevele held a conference after giving a live televised address last night, saying work is underway to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

From Tonga, Kim Baker Wilson reports.

"It's being claimed the captain of the ferry that sank on Wednesday believes the government knew the ferry was not fit for the water."

Dr Sevele said he wasn't prepared to comment on the claims, but said if he were a captain himself and knew of problems he wouldn't have sailed. Dr Sevele he has seen a certificate of seaworthiness. Despite criticism, he was satisfied with his government's response.

Over 500 thousand US dollars has been set aside for families directly affected by the sinking. A special sitting of Parliament today will work towards the Inquiry.

Meanwhile, the police in Tonga are not confident they have an accurate manifest of those on the sunken ferry Princess Ashika.

Just two bodies have been recovered since the vessel capsized last Wednesday night.

Bad weather has been delaying navy divers and 93 people remain unaccounted for.

The Tonga police commander, Chris Kelley, says they continue to work through a list of 149 names on the manifest.

There's a person's name on the manifest who rang us up and said look, I'm here in Tongatapu, so clearly they weren't on the vessel, there's one name there we think is duplicated and so it goes on.

The Tonga police commander, Chris Kelley.