Tongan Legislative Assembly to unseat members

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A meeting of the Tongan Legislative Assembly will be held on 16 May to unseat two Members of Parliament from their seats, after their elections were voided by the Supreme Court in Nuku’alofa.

The date for the meeting was announced on 04 May, before a third member of parliament had his election declared void by the Court.

Three other election petitions remain pending.

The Legislative Assembly in a statement issued on 04 May said the Speaker, Lord Fakafanua received two Court Certifications on 02 May.

This confirmed that the elections in the 18 November 2021 General Election of the respective Parliamentary Representatives for Tongatapu 10, Pohiva Tuʻiʻonetoa, and Tongatapu 7, Sione Sangster Saulala, had been voided by the Supreme Court of Tonga.

This is the outcome of judgments on respective election petitions that were brought against Tuʻiʻonetoa and Saulala on charges of bribery.

“The Legislative Assembly is required under the Electoral Act to unseat the two Members of Parliament from their respective seats in the Assembly, due to their elections having been voided by the Supreme Court.

“The unseating will be carried out at this Assembly’s meeting to be held on 16 May 2022. Once unseated, the seats in Parliament for Tongatapu 10 and Tongatapu 7 will be vacant.

“The Speaker will then issue writs for election of new Representatives for Tongatapu 10 and Tongatapu 7.”

The statement said that the date for the election of the new Representatives for the two constituencies will be determined by the Electoral Commission in consultation with the Speaker.

Meanwhile, a third Member of Parliament, Tatafu Moeaki the People’s Representative for Tongatapu 4 and Minister of Finance had his election declared void, in a judgment by the Supreme Court.

The election petition was filed by Mateni Tapueluelu [petitioner] who contested the same Tongatapu 4 electorate.

He challenged the election of the respondent, Tatafu, alleging that he committed five acts of bribery in breach of section 21(1)(a) of the Electoral Act and sought the court’s declaration that his election is void.

Justice Niu issued a 40-pages wrtitten judgment, after hearing evidence presented over three-days of trial on 11-13 April, at the Supreme Court in Nuku’alofa.

He found that the respondent committed bribery in two occasions. One claim was not proven and another two were withdrawn by the petitioner.

“Because it has been proved to the satisfaction of this Court at the trial of this election petition of the petitioner, Mateni Tapueluelu, against the respondent, Tatafu Moeaki, that the respondent is guilty of two offences of bribery under section 21 of the Electoral Act.”

His election as the representative for the Tongatapu 4 Constituency was therefore declared void.

Three other election petitions remain pending in Court, out of a total of the eight election petitions filed with the Courts.

Four have received judgements.

SOURCE: TONGA WIRES/PACNEWS