15 Mar 2010

Lawyers in Tonga worried that Ashika report could prejudge their clients

7:38 pm on 15 March 2010

Lawyers for people who gave testimony at the commission of inquiry into the sinking of the Tongan inter-island ferry, the Princess Ashika, have urged the commissioners to be cautious in the way they compile their report.

The vessel sank in August last year claiming 74 lives.

The inquiry, which began in late October, is close to being completed, with the lawyers' submissions last Friday and the final report due to be presented at the end of this month.

Our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, says the lawyers were mostly concerned their clients could be prejudiced by the report findings.

"They are concerned specifically about two terms of reference that the commission has, and that is, one, anybody who has any criminal liability, and two, any civil liability for the damages that have been done. It is simply a report and not a judgement."

Mateni Tapueluelu.

The lawyer for Prime Minister Dr Feleti Sevele asked the commissioners to allow those who gave testimony to be able to vet the report before it is made public.

The commissioners have yet to respond to that request.