PM dodges questions over conflict of interest
CONTROVERSY surrounds the appointment in Tuvalu of its new Chief Justice as questions are being raised about the close links between the appointee and the island’s Prime Minister.
Australian barrister and Queens Counsel Charles Sweeney is Chief Justice of Tuvalu, succeeding Justice Sir Gordon Ward who tendered his resignation citing difficulties in performing his constitutional role because of a travel ban imposed against him by the Fijian Government. Fiji was displeased when Sir Gordon resigned as President of the Fiji Court of Appeal after the December 2006 military coup, and had refused to lift the travel ban every time Sir Gordon wanted to transit through Fiji in order to attend to court duties in Tuvalu.
Contacted two months ago, Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga refused to respond to magazine questions about the perceived conflict of interest in the appointment of Sweeney to replace Sir Gordon, given that the Australian QC represented him and several of his cabinet ministers in a defamation case Sir Gordon, as Chief Justice presided over in 2011. Sopoaga and his colleagues as plaintiffs lost the case and got fined AU$50,000 for defamation.
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