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If Tupouto'a had opposed Media Bills they would not have reached Parliament

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Response to: Wholly untrue that I proposed Media Operator’s Act

Dear Editor,

After Government had lost the first set of actions against it by the media, it looked at the Prohibited Publications Act and the Customs Act. I recall what was said and it’’s a matter of words whether it was proposed, suggested, implanted or hinted that Government should look at the American situation on the media and adopt it here. After that, Crown Law engaged Senior Counsel from overseas to put in place what would be appropriate legislations.

The three Bills came back, namely the amendment to Clause 7 of the Constitution, the Newspaper Bill and the Media Operators Bill. The last Bill reflected the American situation and also the Government’s policy on business investments in Tonga.

I am surprised with the motive attributed to me. If it’’s true it would be an amazing situation …– it would mean that I had directed every Minister to vote for the Bill before it went to Parliament and after it came back. It would also mean that not withstanding Tupouto’a’s opposition to these bills he had to follow my direction and decisions. That would not be possible and totally incredible.

HRH Tupouto‘a stated …….”I was opposed to the anti media laws on the grounds that they were not our style of doing things in this country”……. He only needed to say that he was opposed to the Bills and they would not have reached Parliament. Some Ministers were not happy with the Bills and were looking for an [way] out to withdraw their support. I was firmly in support of the Bills. The slightest indication that Tupouto‘a was against the Bills would have ended the matter. A unanimous Vote was required on all these three Bills in Cabinet and Privy Council before they are submitted to Parliament. If Parliament passed the Bills before His Majesty can give his assent, a unanimous vote was again required, according to the Constitution, in Cabinet and Privy Council.

If it is …….”not our style of doing things in this country”……. may I ask the following questions:-

Why were the Bills not stopped if it is not in line with the style of doing things in this country?

What was the style that was adopted in the “One Domestic Airline” policy and the elimination of Air Niu in favour of Peau Vava‘u?

The reference to the “Judges Rules” are inappropriate and indicates lack of any understanding of what they mean. The Judges Rules relate to a set of rules which the Judges have formulated and applied by them to determine the admissibility or inadmissibility in evidence of confessions made by accused persons in criminal trials. They have no relevance in a civil trial. Court procedures are there for the trial lawyers to follow and to ensure that the cases are being conducted according to law. They are not matters for a person who is not involved in a trial or for Parliament when enacting the legislation. The Judges interpret and apply the law, but they don…’t make the law.

I come from a poor and humble family and make no apology for that.

The unwritten “‘rule of silence”adopted by Ministers dismissed from their position has been maintained through fear of repercussions to them and their families. It…’s been glorified by referring to silent dismissed Ministers as “‘gentlemen”. In its true form one can only describe it as an ugly hallmark of dictatorship. In a small country such as Tonga, it would be frightening to speak out against the present regime if you are dismissed.

In this enlightened day and age a dismissed person has the right to explain his side of the story if false explanations and reasons are given for his dismissal. Natural justice demands that a dismissed person shall be afforded the opportunity to explain whether the accusations against him is true or not.

In the case of our dismissals we were handed a glowing letter of appreciation for our services, which I still have and am delivering a copy of it to you. At the same time I was accused of what I have already explained in my interview. The two reasons conflicted, subsequent to that a number of different explanations were given in Parliament and to the public which accused us of wrong doing, without any opportunity afforded to us to explain our position. We are expected to remain silent while we have been wrongly accused. Even at today‘’s date the false accusation continues and I am ridiculed for explaining the position.

Finally, the people of this country are entitled to know what happened in Government and why we were dismissed.

Relevant to the issue of silence may I ask the following questions:-

If the other two Ministers are “gentlemen”’, then why were they dismissed so summarily?

As they have remained silent are they likely to be re-instated to their Ministerial posts?

The proposed appointment of two Ministers from the Nobles Representatives and two from the People’s Representatives is ill-conceived and a desperate attempt to appease. It has not been worked out properly and it is objectionable if people are being appointed on the grounds of “‘grace and favour” rather than on their merit and ability to do the work. It should also be demonstrated that there is a need to appoint such Ministers as peoples taxes are been squandered on this unnecessary proposal. It’’s these types of initiatives without proper objectives and directions that are causing stagnation in this country.

Yours Faithfully

Clive Edwards.

john [at] exportculture [dot] com (Email - Clive Edwards)