Tonga MPs granted stay of unseating

Tongan MPs Sangster Saulala and Tatafu Moeaki
(L-R) Tongan MPs Sangster Saulala and Tatafu Moeaki.

Two Tongan Cabinet Ministers, who were found to have committed bribery in the lead up to the November 2021 Tonga General Election, have been granted a stay of execution in their judgments, until their appeal is heard and determined. 

It is understood that there will be a special Appeal Session scheduled for July. 

Lord Chief Justice Whitten QC granted the first stay of execution in an application filed by the Minister of Finance (the Tongatapu 4 People’s Representative), Tatafu Moeaki on Friday, 20 May at the Supreme Court. 

The second application was granted to the Minister of Internal Affairs (the Tongatapu 7 People’s Representative), Sangster Saulala. 

This means that the unseating of these two members of Parliament as a result of committing bribery, and the court’s declaration of their election to parliament as void, under the Electoral Act shall be stayed (or not implemented) until their appeal is heard and determined. 

Details of the stay of these judgments are expected to be issued by the Lord Chief Justice. 

It is understood that there are other applications for a stay in judgments, in particular, Deputy Prime Minister (the Tongatapu 6 People’s Representative) Poasi Tei and former Prime Minister (the Tongatapu 10 People’s Representative) Dr Pohiva Tu’ione’toa, which will be determined sometime this week.  

Meanwhile, a total of eight election petitions were filed with the Supreme Court. 

Four members were found to have committed bribery and three were dismissed. The latest dismissal was a petition filed by ‘Akanete Lauti against Tongatapu 5 People’s Representative, ‘Aisake Eke on 20 May.  

The only petition pending is a second election petition against Tu’i’onetoa.

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