27 Oct 2009

Scepticism over value of Tongan disaster inquiry

9:26 pm on 27 October 2009

The inquiry into the sinking of the Princess Ashika opens this week in Tonga, but there are doubts that its findings will ever be implemented.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry will consider what caused the ferry to sink in August, with the loss of more than 70 lives.

In particular, it will look at whether any criminal act contributed to the disaster, and whether there's evidence of civil responsibility.

Investigators will also look into why the death toll was so high.

On Tuesday the inquiry heard from 11 witnesses from government departments.

Tongan Women's National Congress president Mele 'Amanaki says that there have been many royal commissions in Tonga, but that what happens with them is usually up to the King.

She says she is confident the commissioners will do a good job, but has very little confidence that the results will come out after they have been presented to the King.

Eight hundred members of the women's congress are fasting in support of a petition calling for Prime Minister Feleti Sevele to be sacked.

The commission will hold public hearings over the next few months before delivering its report by the end of next March.

Meanwhile, Tonga Prime Minister Felete Sevele has refuted claims made by a media organisation he has changed his view on the sea-worthiness of the vessel.