3 Mar 2010

Tonga NGO shocked at PM's stance against Ashika inquiry lawyer

12:54 pm on 3 March 2010

The co-ordinator of an NGO in Tonga says people were appalled at last week's attack by the Prime Minister on the lawyer assisting the commission of inquiry into the sinking of the Princess Ashika.

Dr Feleti Sevele was strongly critical of Manuel Varitimos, calling on him to understand Tonga's constitution and show some respect for the King, the government, the people and the culture.

But Ofa ki-Levuka Guttenbeil Likiliki of the Women's and Children's Crisis Centre says the Prime Minister was using culture as an excuse.

"For him to make such a remark for us, first of all, it's a discouragement for those hoping for accountability and transparency on the part of the Government of Tonga, and, you know, the general response following that when it first came out in the media, people were lost for words, shocked and appalled."

Ofa ki-Levuka Guttenbeil Likiliki.

The day after the Prime Minister's attack, the chairman of the commission of inquiry, Justice Warwick Andrew, said Dr Sevele's comment was inappropriate.

He says some may not have liked the questions asked or preferred them not to have been asked, but Mr Varitimos is independent and will remain so.