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  • From the Courts
    Monday 28 February 2011 10:30pm

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : Paul Karalus, Tonga’s former Minister of Transport told the Nuku’alofa Supreme Court on Thursday, February 24, that he had relied entirely on the maritime expertise of the marine surveyors and the Acting Director of Marine, defendant Viliami Tu’ipulotu and they had never told him of any concern they had about the seaworthiness of the MV Princess Ashika.
  • Pacific Islands
    Monday 28 February 2011 8:51pm

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : TONGA’S 10th military contingent has deployed to the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands RAMSI, leaving Tonga on Friday, February 25. The contingent of 33 soldiers is the first to be deployed to the Solomon Islands following the return of the ninth military contingent that included Tongan soldiers who were alleged to have shot dead a Solomon Islander in Titinge on August 12, 2010. Captain Toni Fonokalafi told Matangi Tonga Online on February 28, that an investigation conducted by the Tonga Defence Services following incident had concluded in September that the Tongan soldiers did not commit any crime. “The Tongan boys acted according to the Rules of Engagement in regards to the area of operation,” he said. “To my understanding a report was officially submitted from the Government of Tonga to the Government of the Solomon Islands about the findings of the investigation,” said Capt Fonokalafi. The ninth military contingent returned to Tonga on August 27, 2010 after completing their normal four months deployment under RAMSI. 10th contingent Meanwhile, Tonga’s 10th contingent left Tonga on an Australian Air Force Hercules aircraft, going first to Australia for four weeks pre-deployment training before being deployed to the Solomon Islands on March 29, 2011. The normal RAMSI rotation has the Tongans taking over from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano was at Fua’amotu International Airport and sent off the departing contingent. “I wish you all the best in your mission, as you are good men of this nation. You are representing His Majesty the King, and the people of Tonga.” RAMSI is a partnership between the Solomon Islands and 15 other Pacific countries, including Tonga, to help bring back stability, security and prosperity to the nation. The TDS has provided assistance since 2004.
  • Law
    Monday 28 February 2011 1:28pm

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : A New Zealand engine mechanic David Shaw who inspected the main engines of the MV Princess Ashika in Fiji on April 2009 told the Supreme Court in Nuku’alofa on February 24, that he never signed an Audit Report dated April 6-8, 2009 nor did he authorise anyone to do so. David is the Director of Shaw Diesels Ltd in Auckland and the sixth witness to be called by the Crown. David told the Crown Prosecutor ‘Aminiasi Kefu that he saw the Audit Report for the first time in September 2009, when a Transport investigator from Wellington interviewed him. He told ‘Aminiasi that the signature on the Audit document was not his and the company that was named in the report was not his company’s name. His company’s name is Shaw Diesels Ltd. and not Shaw Diesel Services as it was stated on the document. Signature “Did you authorise anyone to sign your name on this audit document,” asked the Crown Prosecutor. David answered no, nor did he authorise Kerry, John or Shipping Corporation of Polynesia Ltd to sign his signature. He was then asked if he noticed anything else that was unusual about the signature. David said that he is left handed but the signature on the document appeared to have been written by a right handed writer. He then wrote his signature and was shown to Justice Robert Shuster and the jury. Engine David an expert on diesel engines said that in April 2009 he was in Suva for another job when he was contacted by John Jonesse to come and generally look at the two main engines on the Ashika vessel. He said he was picked up from his hotel by John and Kerry and they went to the wharf where the Ashika was docked. They boarded the vessel and sailed from Natovi to Levuka on flat coastal water. They stayed overnight at Levuka and returned to Suva the following morning. The Crown Prosecutor asked David for his first impression of the vessel? David replied that it looked a bit “tired” meaning it was clear the vessel was old and was rusted, but he admitted that he has no maritime expertise to determine whether the vessel was seaworthy or not as he was just a diesel engine mechanic to look at the transmission of the vessel. “I was there to look at the engines and that is what I did,” said David. Leaking He said that he noticed that the heat exchange on the generator sets was leaking with water. David told the court that during their sail to Levuka he heard a knock coming from the engine “which was not normal”. He also said that the exhaust pipe needed to be replaced because it had deteriorated and it was overheating the engine room where people must work to service the engine. Engine David told the court that the diesel engine on the Ashika was a slow speed Daihatsu engine, manufactured only in Japan where parts are still made. He said that it was not easy to get parts for such an engine and one have to order them directly from Japan, and it could take time. He said that when they return to Suva from Lautoka he talked to Jonesse about the main engines and the generator sets and he told him that the generator sets must be repaired and he was also concerned about the knock sound from the engine where it came from poor timing or something else. “What was Jonesse’s response?” asked the Crown Prosecutor. David said that John replied yes. David said that after their journey to Levuka, he again saw the Ashika in Nuku’alofa in July 2009 during a visit to Tonga. Cross-examination Laki Niu the counsel for Jonesse wanted to know what David meant when he said that the vessel looked tired. David answered that there are many vessels in the Pacific which are older than the Ashika but not many of them were powered by Daihatsu engines. A Daihatsu engine is a slow speed engine with 750 rotations in one minute. “I did not look at the engine internally just externally and it looked good,” he said. “The problem with the knocks that I heard, I told John it should be fixed.” He said John told him he would tell the former owners Patterson Brothers to fix it. Jonesse has been charges with eight counts, including forgery and knowingly dealing with a forgery document in relation to David Shaw report.
  • Press Releases
    Sunday 27 February 2011 9:59pm

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : The Government of Tonga, along with church leaders of the nation, will hold a special church service tomorrow evening, Sunday 27th February, to pray for the community of Christchurch as well as the New Zealand government, following the devastating earthquake on Tuesday 22nd February. - PMO, 26/02/27.
  • Law
    Sunday 27 February 2011 7:23pm

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : A Senior Marine Engineer, Lou Pale, one of the three surveyors who surveyed the MV Princess Ashika after it arrived in Nuku’alofa from Fiji on July 2, 2009 told the Supreme Court on Wednesday, February 23 that he had never surveyed a vessel with so many deficiencies as the Ashika and the vessel was unsuitable to sail on Tongan waters. Lou was the fourth witness to be called by the Crown. From photographs that he took when they were surveying the vessel Lou pointed out the rust, holes and advanced corrosion on the ramps and on various parts of the vessel. He also identified that the bow ramp was not watertight and the bottom was welded through to shut it but it was not the proper method of repairing therefore they could not confirm whether it was strong enough to withstand any storm while at sea. Cross Examination When Lou was cross-examination by Laki Niu, the legal Counsel for the former Shipping Cooperation of Polynesia SCP Managing Director John Jonesse about the identity of the surveyors. Low said that the surveyors were himself, ‘Onesi Tu’ifua and Lisiate Vuni Latu and that they were all very concern about the design of the vessel, which they thought was not suitable to sail on Tongan waters. “Did you expressed your concern in your report?” asked Laki. “No,” said Lou. But he said they submitted a List of Deficiencies which should be fixed before the vessel was allowed to leave port. Laki pointed out to Lou that he did not put his concern, that the vessel was unsuitable to sail in Tonga because of its shape, in their report to the Acting Director of Marine Viliami. Lou agreed with Laki. Lou later told the Crown Prosecutor that it was not the normal practice to include the design of the vessel on their report because their survey was on if the vessel was seaworthy. Signature If the surveyors’ report to the Acting Director of Marine, Viliami Tu’ipulotu was considered incomplete it became its legality became in doubt after Lou told the court that another officer, Mafi signed his name for him on the report. Lou said when he knew about his name being put down by another person he contacted the Acting Director of Marine. Mafi on the other hand confirmed he sign for Lou “because he was not present and they needed to submit the report.” Lou said he was not happy with the fact that another person signed his name for him on the report. The trial continues on February 24, with witnesses from New Zealand including David Shaw.
  • Health
    Wednesday 23 February 2011 4:28pm

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : AN eight -members group of volunteers from the South Pacific Animal Welfare SPAW are finishing off a month long animal care clinics that was launched after they arrived in Tonga on February 7. During the SPAW clinics at the Village Clinic, Ha’ateiho, they de-sexed well over one hundred cats and dogs, they treated about forty animals, and applied euthanasia on four dogs, three were in very bad condition after being hit by vehicles on the road, and a one was severely attacked by hook worms. In addition all the animals that were brought to the SPAW clinics were given a four month supply of treatment for worms and flees, to last them until the group return in May. Karen Galvin, the founder of SPAW and the leader of the group said that all the services and the treatment they gave were for free, though they welcome any donation from the public. The team is made up of three veterinarians and four veterinarian nurses, all women from Australia, New Zealand and the UK. “This is our first visit to Tonga, and we want this project to last, and to be successful.” Karen said that besides offering free services they also would like to develop a good working relation with their local counterparts. “It has been great, Mika, Mote and Nau have been working with us since we arrived.” The SPAW do not offer their services in every South Pacific island countries, only where animal care services are not readily or freely available. Mika Saipala from the Livestock Division of the Ministry of Agriculture said that allocation in the Ministry’s budget for the treatment of animal against worm is about $10,000 per annum, and that is not even enough for the treatment of animal for human consumption such as cows, goats and pigs, so pet animals are not catered for. He said that is why his ministry is very supportive of the initiative by SPAW. With regards to the general health of Tonga’s domesticated animals. Karen said that a national survey on the health of domesticated animals in Tonga has not been carried out, but worms appeared to be a threat, particularly with the Tongan life style of free roaming animals, and through their feces worms could be easily transmitted to human. “Good animal husbandry, catering for the security and the need of animals is fundamental,” said Karen and stressed that the basic need of animals are water, food and a shelter. Dr Bethan Cosgrove one of the veterinarians with the group said that the treatment of animal for human consumption such as pigs is vital, “because even after it is cooked, it would not kill all the worms, and meat with worms can be transferred to human.” Bethan is English who was on a working holiday in Australia when she heard of the SPAW program to Tonga, and she offered her service.
  • Police and Crime
    Wednesday 23 February 2011 10:34am

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : THE implementation of a newly structured Tonga Police was officially declared by the Minister of Police, Hon. Dr Viliami Latu on Monday, February 21, when he announced the appointment by the government of Police Commander Chris Kelley as Tonga’s first Police Commissioner. Dr Latu said that the introduction of the newly structured Tonga Police and the appointment of Chris Kelley had historical significance, since the inception of the Tonga Police Force in the 1860’s. “The separation of powers between the Commissioner and myself will provide for more constabulary independence. It would prove greater certainty, and transparency with the allocation of police powers,” he said. Under the Tonga Police Act 2010, the Tonga Police Force will become known as just the Tonga Police, and the Commissioner will have the command, supervision and control of the Tonga Police, and every member of the Tonga Police shall comply with the Commissioner’s instructions, circulars and orders. “Commissioner, the responsibility is now yours to carry out the organisation, governance, and the administration required implement the Act on behalf of the government,” said the Minister of Police. Police Commissioner Chris Kelley in his address said that the Police Act 2010 was required to better equip Tonga Police to confidently meet the challenges of policing in modern Tonga. “It came out of public concerns, government unease and police dissatisfaction with the old act which lacked clarity in administration and operation, and it adversely impacted on the effectiveness of Tonga Police,” he said. “The new act ensures police transparency and accountability to the people, by establishing guiding principles for how policing should be carried out. “Most importantly, it provides rights, strengthens safeguards in the exercise of police powers, not only for suspected offenders but also for victims and witnesses and members of the public who have care and protection needs,” he said. Recruitment With regards to the recruiting of police into the Tonga Police, a Police Employment Committee will be set up to appoint, promote and transfer members of the Tonga Police, and to determine the conditions of employment. Members of the Committee consist of the Commissioner, and two police officers appointed by the Minister of Police. A Police Commissioner holds office for a period not exceeding three years, but he or she will be eligible for re-appointment for one further term only. Police Commander Chris Kelley, a New Zealander, was contracted by the Tongan government on September 2008 for a period of three years, with the privilege for a renewal. Following the destruction of the Nuku’alofa Central Business District by protestors in 2006, the government launched the Tonga Police Development Program in, 2007. A five-years Tripartite Partnership Agreement was signed by Australia, New Zealand and Tonga in July 2008, with an allocation of $4 million pa’anga to finance the program. Chris Kelley was appointed as the Commander of the Tonga Police Force on September 2008 to oversee the program. The passing of the Tonga Police Act 2010, the restructuring of the police and the appointment of the new police commissioner were steps toward completing the Tonga Police Development Program. The reforming of the Ministry of Police, allows the other two portfolios of the Minister of Police, the Prison and the Fire Services to have a similar administration structure as the police, with the Superintendent of the Prisons, Sione Falemanu, responsible for the administration of all prisons in Tonga, and the Chief Fire Officer, Lofia Heimuli responsible for all Fire Services in the country.
  • Press Releases
    Monday 21 February 2011 5:33pm

    Noumea, New Caledonia
    : The Government of New Caledonia and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) have signed three agreements today to fund interventions to reduce public health risks resulting from contaminated drinking water, inadequate sanitation and drought. - SPC.
  • Economy
    Monday 21 February 2011 6:20am

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : ALEX THURSBY, the CEO for ANZ Bank Asia Pacific, Europe and America said on his arrival in Nuku’alofa on Thursday, February 17 that for the Pacific to increase its economic development it should “capitalize on its proximity to Asia and the growing connections it has with the region.” Alex is on a six nation Pacific tour, accompanied by seven members of his leadership team. He pointed out that Tonga’s imports from China grew from USD$1.2 million to around USD$10 million in the past decade, and the trend is replicated throughout the Pacific, where the imports from China into the region passed USD$1 bilion for the first time in 2010. The exports from the Pacific to China has also went up by 77% during the first 11months of 2010, compared to 2009, and it has been estimated that it will reach a record of US$1.2 billion, more than eight times the amount in 2001. Imports from China into the region has passed USD$1 bilion for the first time in 2010. Alex said that during the next five years, the emerging markets of Asia “are expected to account for more than 50% of global economic growth and Asia, particularly China will be the most significant driver of World growth.” Meanwhile the ANZ Bank has big plans for its Pacific operation this year. “We intend to introduce a faster, lower cost way for people to remit money back to the Pacific, we’ll launch a new level of service for our affluent customers and we’ll continue to explore how we can use mobile phones to improve banking services for people living in remote areas.” The ANZ employs more than 2000 people and operates 60 branches in 12 Pacific countries. On this Pacific tour, Alex and his team will also visit Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Guam, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands.
  • Agriculture
    Monday 21 February 2011 1:55am

    Rome, Italy
    : In a world that has 1.6 billion people who are overweight, the biggest challenge to mobilizing action against hunger is that hunger is becoming invisible in places, “and in a world exploding with prosperity and possibility we have become morally bankrupt, we have lost the sense of compassion…,” UN Messenger of Peace HRH Princess Haya Al Hussein said this weekend, appealing to leaders who can make a difference for the rural poor. - By Mary Lyn Fonua
  • Defence
    Sunday 20 February 2011 6:59pm

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : THE Commander of the Tonga Defence Services Brigadier General Tau’aika ‘Uta’atu, and Navy Commander Sione Fifita were bearers of good news from the 55 soldiers who are currently serving in Afghanistan to their wives, mothers, children and their loved ones who were at the TDS headquarter, Sene last Friday, February 18 to hear the latest news from Afghanistan. Brigadier ‘Uta’atu and Navy Commander Sione Fifita showed videos, and photographs of the soldiers at the British Camp Bastion, Helmand Province in Southern Afghanistan, and informed the families that the soldiers “are well and in good health”. Brigadier Tau’aika and Commander Sione Fifita visited the Tongan soldiers from January 26 to February 5. They said that the soldiers work alongside the UK Armed Forces at the Helmand Province in Southern Afghanistan, where they carry out Base Security at the British Camp Bastion. “They also have joined a Quick Reaction Task Force that responds to any emergency in the camp,” said Brigadier ‘Uta’atu. He told the families that the soldiers are safe, but he reminded them “that they are in a war zone.” Brigadier ‘Uta’atu also told the families that he also received good feedbacks from the commanding officers at Camp Bastion, that the Tongan boys were hardworking, well disciplined and obedient. Deployment The Tongan soldiers led by Commander Satisi Vunipola departed Tonga on October 25, 2010 for England where they completed an initial six weeks pre-deployment training before being deployed to Afghanistan in January this year. It is understood the soldiers would return to Tonga around June this year at the completion of the six months deployment. A second Tongan contingent for Afghanistan is planned for April but it is yet to be confirmed, said Brigadier ‘Uta’atu.
  • Press Releases
    Friday 18 February 2011 1:05pm

    London, UK
    : Ministers and senior officials responsible for promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality in the Commonwealth will meet in New York from 19-20 February 2011. - Commonwealth Secretariat.
  • Sports
    Thursday 17 February 2011 4:15pm

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : The vision of the Tonga Football Association for soccer to be Tonga’s Number One sport by 2020, will be more achievable in Vava’u than in Tongatapu, said Lui ‘Aho, the new General Secretary of the Tonga Football Association TFA after spending two days in Vava’u, 15-16 February.
  • Law
    Wednesday 16 February 2011 7:30pm

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : A total of 11 rifles, consisting of .22 rifles, a 12-gauge shotgun and a sniper-scope rifle were surrendered to the police during a Firearm Amnesty that ran from December 17, 2010 to January 21, 2011. During the Tonga Police weekly Crime Report Program with the local media on Tuesday, February 15, Police Commander Chris Kelley displayed the surrendered rifles at the Police Headquarter, Longolongo, and stressed his deep concern about the circulation of illegal and lethal weapons in Tonga. He said that ten of the 11 rifles were never registered in Tonga. One was registered but had since expired, but because of the amnesty there will be no prosecution. Smuggled The Commander said investigation by police revealed that a number of firearms were smuggled into Tonga over years in cargo containers, imported vehicles, visiting yachts, “and even directly through the postal system, as incredible as it sounds.” He stressed that the police is targeting to take possession of all illegal firearms in Tonga, “because there is no place for them in Tonga. “I am concerned about the safety of people in Tonga, with all these illegal firearms around.” In the whole of Tonga there are to date 2000 licensed firearms, 850 of them in Tongatapu alone. Crimes He said police recorded over 80 cases relating to firearm offences during the past three years. During the first six months of 2010 there were 20 reported cases in comparison to 16 firearm offences in 2009 and 43 in 2008. “During the last two years we have witnessed firearms being used in robbery cases, intimidation cases and suicide incidents, as well as other offences relating to firearms,” he said. The Commander reminded the public that they have until February 28 to license their firearms or face prosecution, and pistols and automatics firearms are two types of firearms that are banned from Tonga. “We need to take out all unnecessary and illegal firearms away from people who could use them for illegal purposes,” he said.
  • From the Courts
    Wednesday 16 February 2011 5:19pm

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : A Senior Marine Engineer who surveyed the MV Princess Ashika vessel in Nuku’alofa on July 2, 2009 told the Supreme Court in Nuku’alofa yesterday, February 15, that the vessel was not good because it was full of holes and was heavily rusted. ‘Onesi Tu’ifua a Senior Marine Engineer with the Marine Division of Tonga’s Ministry of Transport was the second witness called by the Crown yesterday. He told the court that on July 1, 2009 the day the Ashika arrived in Tonga from Fiji he and the Acting Director of Marine, Viliami Tu’ipulotu went onboard the vessel together with other marine surveyors. He said that while he was still standing on the gangplank, he could easily see the heavy rust and swelling on the side of the steel vessel. It appeared so heavily rusted that he could have easily punch a hole through the swellings. Holes ‘Onesi said he told the defendant John Jonesse who was then the Director of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia Ltd that the vessel was “not good” as he walked to the engine room. “I could see holes on the side of the vessel, and I pointed to these holes but Jonesse talked about something else. We have not yet conducted the survey of the vessel but I could see the rust and holes,” said ‘Onesi. ‘Onesi said the survey of the Ashika was carried out untill the following day July 2, 2009. He said that John Jonesse tendered the application form for the survey to be carried out. “It was received and I approved it,” said ‘Onesi. The form stated the vessel was 47.1m long, had 677.15 tonne and its owner was the Government of Tonga with Shipping Corporation as the agent. The vessel could accommodate 18-crew and 350 passengers including crew. ‘Onesi was on the Witness Stand all of yesterday afternoon and today, 16 February.
  • From the Courts
    Wednesday 16 February 2011 3:16pm

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : I believed that the design of the MV Princess Ashika vessel made her unsuitable to sail on Tonga’s open high seas, even if the needed repair work on the vessel was done, Viliami Vaka’uta Pola Vi told the Supreme Court in Nuku’alofa on the second day of the Ashika trial, yesterday, February 15.
  • Economy
    Wednesday 16 February 2011 9:17am

    Nuku'alofa, Tonga
    : Tonga’s official Foreign Reserves fell by $12.3 million from $177.5 million to $165.2 million in January 2011.
  • Press Releases
    Tuesday 15 February 2011 2:59pm

    Sydney, Australia
    : The fifth round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) between the US, Australia, and seven other countries starts in Santiago, Chile, today. Over 30 Australian community groups, including the ACTU and 8 national unions, the Catholic Social Justice Council, Greenpeace, the Public Health Association and pensioner groups are calling on governments to release the draft texts of the proposed agreement. - Trade Justice Campaigner.
  • Press Releases
    Tuesday 15 February 2011 2:21pm

    Cairo, Egypt
    : Switzerland has frozen whatever assets Hosni Mubarak and his associates may have there, and anti-corruption campaigners are demanding the same of other countries. But experts say hunting for the deposed Egyptian leader’s purported hidden wealth - let alone recovering it - will be an enormous task. - Associated Press.
  • Press Releases
    Tuesday 15 February 2011 1:13pm

    London, UK
    : Heads of Cabinet Offices and Public Service Secretaries from nine Commonwealth Pacific countries and territories will hone their skills in strategic leadership and effective management at a Commonwealth forum in the Cook Islands, which begins on 21 February 2010. - Commonwealth Secretariat.