NATURAL justice was amongst top defending grounds raised when the Legislative Assembly debated the much controversial motion for an impeachment of Vava’u 16 constituency MP and Minister of Infrastructue and Tourism Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu.
Parliament has resolved to grant Lavulavu a right of reply for allegation made against him on the grounds of natural justice.
Although the discussion triggered contention during deliberations in Parliament, MPs resolved to use their right mind and conscience to give the accused a chance of the right to reply before the Privilege Standing Committee. He vehemently denied the allegations in the impeachment motion.
The impeachment motion of Lavulavu was tabled in Parliament by Nobles' Representative Number 2 of Vava’u Lord Tu’ilakepa. After much consideration of screening the Motion for an impeachment, its supporting evidence and affidavits, the Privilege Committee report number 7/2015 tabled in Parliament recommended there is a prima facie case for the House to hear.
It simply means there is sufficient grounds for an impeachment hearing to take place. Yet it was repeatedly reiterated before an impeachment takes place, Parliament must vote whether it should go ahead or not.
However this was strongly opposed by the accused MP himself and demanded a right to reply on the accusations made against him in the impeachment motion. Lavulavu advocated natural justice in his defence for a right of reply.
The Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva sought the House’s approval for a chance to appear in the Committee’s inquiry where they could interview him on natural justice grounds.
The Minister of Police Hon. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa said this is a serious matter therefore the House should give it time to discuss and consider.
The Infrastructure and Tourism Minister told Parliament he’s supportive of the efforts to promote good governance but has reservation about Rules 87 and 88 of the Rules of Procedure for it has no elements of natural justice.
Rule 87(1) of the Rules of Procedure states it shall be lawful for a member of the Legislative Assembly of his own volition or a result of a written complaint made to him by any Tongan subject, to move the Assembly in accordance with the clause 75 of the Constitution to impeach another Member of Parliament. While Rule 87(2) states a member who seeks to impeach another MP may file a motion seeking to impeach and provide grounds with affidavits setting the prima facie evidence in support.
Lord Fusitu’a the selected Chairman of the Privilege Standing Committee strongly believes that Rule 88 of the Rules of Procedure deals with the commencement of impeachment proceedings. He maintained the proceeding for impeachment may begin if the Legislative Assembly has received and approved the result of the inquiry.
“We have complied with all of these and therefore concludes there is a case to answer based on written recommendations of the Privilege Standing Committee,” explained Lord Fusitu’a.
The Hon.Finance Minister Dr. ‘Aisake Eke contested by stating that the House has yet to receive the result of the inquiry for there is confirmation from Treasury of a breach of the Procurement Act relating to the impeachment motion. For this reason Dr. Eke called on Parliament to investigate the matter further before it votes on the prima facie case recommendation.
The Committee is now weighing its options whether they should extend the time allowing for the accused to respond to allegations made in the impeachment motion. It was earlier reported in Parliament this week the accused was supposed to respond within three days but has yet to comply.