Tongasat’s appeal aimed at hindering suing former PMs, says Pōhiva

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva … plan to lodge additional legal action to force pay back of the Tomgasat money. Image: Kalino Lātū/Kaniva News

By Kalino Lātū, editor of Kaniva News  

Tonga’s Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva says he believes an appeal by Tongasat against a Supreme Court ruling over the illegal payment of millions of dollars is an attempt to hinder attempts to sue those involved and to force Princess Pilolevu to pay back the money.

Parliament tabled a submission by the government early this month to sue ex Prime Ministers Lord Sevele and Lord Tu’ivakanō for their involvement in the illegal payment of TP$90 million (NZ$60 million).

Pōhiva has revealed there was also a plan to lodge additional legal action to force Princess Pilolevu and Tongasat to pay back the money.

READ MORE: Petition to sue ex-PMs over US$50m Tongasat payment

However, he said he had discussed this with his counsel, Dr Rodney Harrison, and there was concern that the money could not be recovered and it would be very hard to investigate it.

Pōhiva told Kaniva News in an exclusive interview this week in Auckland that Tongasat’s appeal would not change Lord Chief Justice Paulsen’s decision.

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“They are free to appeal and that was part of the judicial process, but I don’t think it would affect the Supreme Court’s decision,” the Prime Minister said.

Pohiva said he had read the decision repeatedly and marvelled at how Judge Paulsen looked at all evidence and arguments before he declared that the payments of the money made by the government of Tonga to Tongasat was unlawful within the meaning of the Public Finance Management Act.

Appeal filed
Tongasat, which is also known as The Friendly Islands Satellite Communications Ltd. (Tongasat), filed a notice of appeal against the Supreme Court decision in August.

Its counsel, W.C. Edwards, then filed the appeal in the Court of Appeal of Tonga on October 16.

The appellants said they had fresh evidence from witnesses, including former Ministers of Finance Lord Matoto, Dr ‘Aisake Eke, Sunia Fili and former Chief Secretary to Cabinet ‘Aholotu Palu.

Lord Chief Justice Paulsen issued a declaration on the legal status of the main points of the claims made in the court case in September.

He said the first tranche payment of US$24.45 million in aid grant funds received by the kingdom from the People’s Republic of China on September 4, 2008, was a grant and therefore public money within the meaning of the Public Finance Management Act.

“Following its receipt by the Kingdom, US$20,985,667 of the first payment was paid to or for the benefit of Tongasat pursuant to a purported agreement between the then Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Feleti Sevele and Tongasat,” the judge said.

“The payment of US$20,985,667 of the first payment to or for the benefit of Tongasat was expended in breach of section 9 of the PFMA and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

Finance act breach
“To the extent that the first payment was expended to satisfy pre-existing liabilities of Tongasat that expenditure was in breach of section 30 of the PFMA and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

“The purported agreement between the then Prime Minister and Tongasat was in breach of the PFMA and in excess of Dr Sevele’s lawful powers and authority as Prime Minister and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

“Tongasat was not entitled to payment of the first payment or any part thereof under either the Agency Agreement or the Agency Termination Agreement.

“The second payment of US$25.450 million in aid grant funds received by the kingdom from the People’s Republic of China on June 9, 2011 was a ‘grant’ and accordingly public money within the meaning of the PFMA.

“Following its receipt by the Kingdom, the second payment was paid in its entirety to or for the benefit of Tongasat pursuant to a purported agreement between the then Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Feleti Sevele and Tongasat.

“The payment of the second payment in its entirety to or for the benefit of Tongasat was expended in breach of section 9 of the PFMA and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

“To the extent that the first payment was expended to satisfy pre-existing liabilities of Tongasat that expenditure was in breach of section 30 of the PFMA and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

“The purported agreement between the then Prime Minister and Tongasat was both in breach of the PFMA and in excess of Dr Sevele’ s lawful powers and authority as Prime Minister and accordingly unlawful and invalid.

“Tongasat was not entitled to payment of the second tranche payment or any part thereof under either the Agency Agreement or the Agency Termination Agreement.”

The Pacific Media Centre has a content sharing arrangement with Kaniva News.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Vanuatu court orders release of ‘wanted’ Fiji man, seeks papers

Vanuatu’s Supreme Court … relevant documents from Fiji needed by June 12. Image: Vanuatu govt

By Royson Willie and Kizzy Kalsakau in Port Vila

Vanuatu’s Supreme Court has asked the police and immigration to release Fijian citizen Mohammed Rizwan and to substantiate the claim that he is a wanted man in Fiji.

Rizwan’s lawyer, Frederick Loughman, confirmed that yesterday’s conference in chambers saw the court directing for the relevant documentation from Fiji to be made available by June 12.

After the documents are submitted to the court as ordered by the court on Wednesday, then the matter would be listed for trial.

READ MORE: Contempt application filed in Vanuatu over attempt to deport Fijian

An application for contempt would be heard after this matter is heard.

One of the grounds for the application for contempt was that the agents of the government did not provide any formal legal instrument from the government of Fiji to substantiate their new grounds for deportation or the claim that Rizwan is a wanted man in Fiji.

-Partners-

Minister of Internal Affairs Andrew Napuat said the Immigration Act section 53 said the minister could carry out the removal of non-citizen without notice if the person was a wanted person in another country.

“That’s basically what we’re following,” Napuat said.

“We’re following what the law says.”

Discharged from hospital
The minister said Rizwan was discharged from hospital on Wednesday evening but there was another application to the Magistrate Court by the Acting Director of Immigration for Rizwan to be detained because he was allegedly a wanted person in Fiji.

The minister confirmed that Rizwan has a valid residence visa.

“He’s entitled to live in Vila but we don’t have a copy of his police clearance ever since he arrived.

“That’s something that we’re still investigating.

“We need that to come and other supporting documents from Fiji about his cases and that the Fijian authorities want him in Fiji so they can settle outstanding matters they have against him,” the minister alleged.

The minister said Rizwan’s detention and supervision after being discharged from the hospital was done by immigration officers.

“We don’t have any personal issues with the foreigners we’re dealing with.

‘Implementing the law’
“We’re just basically implementing the law, which has not been implemented in the past or may have been relaxed in the past.

“The funny thing though is when we are trying to implement the law and safeguard the interest, the sovereignty of Vanuatu and their nation there are some people that don’t see the logic behind the work the government is doing.

“Even if they are lawyers or politicians, they need to ask themselves, what do they want for this country?

“That’s the most important thing.

“Do they want this country to be a home for criminals, illegal immigrants, overstayers, those that do not have the appropriate papers to come into the country and work here?

“I believe that money should not be the factor that will drive the citizens of the country to do what they want to do.

“They need to look higher into seeing their country, their future, the future of the people, their children.

“It’s sad to see that when the government is trying to do things according to law and trying to protect the sovereignty and interest of the people, some people don’t see that as important,” the Internal Affairs Minister said.

The lawyer representing Rizwan had said his interest was to see that the law was adhered to at all times, even if it was a deportation carried out by the government, it must be done within the confines of Vanuatu laws.

The Pacific Media Centre has a content sharing arrangement with the Vanuatu Daily Post.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Sword of Damocles’ condemned after Philippines judges oust chief justice

Ousted … Philippines Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno waves to supporters the day she returned to the Supreme Court on May 9, 2018, after two months on leave. Image: Maria Tan/Rappler

By Ralf Rivas in Manila

After the ousting of the Philippines’ Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the six justices who voted against the quo warranto petition have claimed the decision has made the Office of the Solicitor-General more powerful.

The justices raised their concern in their separate dissenting opinions following the Supreme Court’s 8-6 unprecedented and historic vote in favour of the petition – a prerogative warrant – on Friday.

Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo wrote in his dissenting opinion that the decision of the majority had granted the Solicitor-General (SolGen) powers to “remake the composition” of the High Court, “causing the removal of its members”.

READ MORE: Quo warranto v elected impeachable allowed, says Supreme Court

“With the SolGen wielding a quo warranto sword of Damocles over the heads of these officers, the Filipino people cannot be assured that they will discharge their constitutional mandate and functions without fear or favor,” said Del Castillo.

Without such assurance, there can be no guarantee that the primordial interest of the sovereign people is promoted.”

-Partners-

Del Castillo called the SolGen’s move a form of “constitutional adventurism”.

The quo warranto petition to remove Sereno from office was on the basis of an alleged invalid appointment.

The decision is “immediately executory without need for further action,” SC spokesperson Theodore Te said during Friday’s press briefing.

‘Violated requirements’
Nine of the justices said she violated requirements on the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN). The same number of justices ruled that quo warranto was the proper remedy in the ouster of Sereno.

This is the first time that the Supreme Court has removed its own chief, in a petition widely slammed for violating Sereno’s constitutional right to an impeachment process.

Sereno is the second chief justice to be removed from office after Renato Corona was ousted in 2012. He was found guilty of betraying the public trust and committing culpable violation of the Constitution.

Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo’s sentiment was echoed by the dissenting opinions of Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Benjamin Caguioa.

Lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leaders Franklin Drilon, a former justice secretary, shared the same concern.

The others who voted against the petition are Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

Quo warranto or impeachment?
The six dissenters all agreed that impeachment was the only way to unseat an impeachable officer like Sereno.

Del Castillo stressed that allowing the quo warranto proceeding “impairs the independence of constitutional offices”.

Bernabe wrote in her opinion that the OSG should have questioned the discretion of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to include Sereno in the shortlist of chief justice applicants.

Bernabe pointed out that the OSG “voluntarily admitted that the JBC’s grave abuse of discretion is not at all an issue.”

In his dissenting opinion, Velasco relayed the same sentiment.

“There was no attempt to assail and contest much less nullify the JBC’s findings that the respondent possessed all qualifications, the JBC’s decision must stand,” Velasco said.

Yes to quo warranto but…
Velasco said that the “remedy of quo warranto is available to unseat, in the extreme, even an impeachable officer”.

However, he clarified that the one-year prescribed period for filing such a petition had lapsed. He said that Sereno’s nomination and appointment “has not been timely challenged, much less nullified,” and that “the findings and qualifications should be respected.”

Velasco insisted that the OSG had to file a petition for certiorari against the JBC before seeking Sereno’s removal from office.

Bernabe also said that impeachment was not the sole move of removing impeachable officials as it would be “clearly absurd for any of them to remain in office despite their failure to meet the minimum eligibility requirements”.

She said that there “should be a remedy to oust all our public officials, no matter how high-ranking they are, or how critical their functions may be,” but after clear “determination that they have not actually qualified for election or appointment”.

Bernabe stressed that the JBC’s rigorous process was lenient on the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) requirement. In fact, none of the applicants were able to submit all SALNs up to 2012.

Despite voting for the retention of Sereno, Bernabe said she made no claim that Sereno “is or is not a person of integrity.”

“In fact, if there is one thing that is glaringly apparent from these proceedings, it is actually the lack of respondent’s candor and forthrightness in the submission of her SALNs. Integrity must be threshed out in the appropriate case for certiorari,” Bernabe said.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Murray Horton: Root causes of ‘Pacific’ refugee crisis need to be sorted

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Murray Horton: Root causes of ‘Pacific’ refugee crisis need to be sorted

Papua New Guinea immigration officials last week started dismantling parts of a prison camp housing hundreds of defiant refugees as an evacuation deadline loomed yesterday. Video: Al Jazeera

OPINION: By Murray Horton of the Aotearoa Independence Movement

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is to be congratulated for trying to do the decent thing by, in her words, “offering to lend a hand” with regards to Australia’s appalling treatment of refugees detained, then abandoned, on Manus Island (not to forget the others detained on Nauru).

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull tried to swat her away by saying that he has a deal with the US to take the Manus men – I think pigs will fly before Donald Trump honours what he calls “the worst deal ever”, made by Barack Obama.

Nor do I see why there is anything stopping Jacinda from dealing directly with Papua New Guinea. After all, the Manus Island men are being detained in its country and Australia has abandoned them. NZ and PNG are two independent countries, so what’s to stop the two governments sorting out this mess of Australia’s making?

And let’s give credit where credit’s due – the John Key National government made the same offer, namely to take some of the Manus men. It got the same response from Australia. That just goes to show that NZ Tories have got more humanity (in this case, at least) than their Aussie counterparts.

And, to his further credit, Key refused to countenance creating a new category of second class New Zealanders, ones with no rights to travel to Australia. Because that’s why pig-headed Turnbull and co won’t take up NZ’s bipartisan offer.

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The excuse given is that the Manus men could then enter Australia through the New Zealand “back door” — i.e. via the free entry allowed to New Zealanders.

That is just so much crap. There is a precedent for New Zealand cleaning up Australia’s refugee mess, namely the Clark government taking in a swag of people from the Norwegian freighter Tampa, which was famously blocked by John Howard in 2001. Not only that, NZ did the decent thing and let their families join them.

‘Back door’ myth
Hands up if you’ve heard of any of those people going to Australia via the “New Zealand back door” and becoming “terrorists”. No, I thought not. Those Tampa refugees made their lives in New Zealand and have become an asset to this country.

Australia needs to hang its head in shame (this crime against humanity has been perpetrated by both Liberal and Labor governments). If you read, heard or saw a news report about civilians imprisoned without charge, trial or hope of release, who were then abandoned without food, water, power or toilets and in imminent fear of attack and/or death by hostile locals, your first reaction would probably be that this was the latest atrocity by ISIS.

And that’s how we need to judge this – Australia is enacting a policy of state terrorism. Its “Pacific Solution” is starting to resemble the Final Solution that Australia and New Zealand fought to defeat in World War Two.

I’ve experienced a little bit of this deprivation myself – no power, water or toilet for several days after the February 2011 Christchurch quake, and it was no fun in a First World society where we had the expectation that somebody would do something about it ASAP. How much worse it must feel then on a Third World island, with no such expectation.

But if our government is serious about “lending a hand”, then it needs to look much further than the (admittedly spectacular) symptoms like Manus Island, and do something about the causes of the global refugee crisis.

Why are these tens of millions of people (of whom only a few hundred are the victims of Australia’s unforgiveable cruelty) fleeing their home countries?

Plenty will be economic refugees, they simply want a better life for their children and themselves. That is a story as old as humanity. That is why several hundred thousand New Zealanders have moved to Australia, after all. It is the same reason why my Australian grandfather moved from Queensland to Wellington – to get a job.

Global poverty, wars
The cause is global poverty and inequality. That’s a very big problem, and tiny little New Zealand can only do so much about that. But we can do our share, and we can start from the recognition articulated by the most unlikely of sources – Winston Peters – that more and more people see capitalism as their foe and not their friend.

He was talking about New Zealanders, so multiply that by the billions of people living at the coalface of global capitalism and you start to get an idea of the scale of the problem. Capitalism is predicated on a few winners and an awful lot of losers.

Not unreasonably, tens of millions of these “losers” want to move to where they think they can join the “winners” (they are bound to be disillusioned by what they discover upon arrival, but that’s another story).

Hand in glove with global poverty as a cause of refugees is war. This is a direct and immediate cause of huge numbers of people fleeing for their lives. There is nothing unusual about people running away from a big disaster, whether man-made or natural – tens of thousands of Christchurch people fled the city in the hours after that February 2011 killer quake (and plenty of them have not come back).

This is an area where the new government can deal with the root cause of the global refugee crisis – get out of other people’s wars that we’re already involved in (such as Afghanistan and Iraq); stay out of the absolute tarpit that is Syria; don’t go haring off after Donald Trump if he goes to war in Korea.

More fundamentally, build on the good work done in the 1980s (which made NZ nuclear free and out of ANZUS) and get out of the Five Eyes spy network and break the remaining military ties that bind NZ to the US Empire. Build a truly non-aligned and independent foreign policy that prioritises peace over war.

There is a direct cause and effect between war and refugees. Our “traditional allies” are very good at creating the mess via war, then expressing indignant surprise when that very same mess comes back to bite them in the bum in the form of a human tide. Libya is a textbook case – NATO military powers, with US assistance, played a vital role in violently overthrowing the Gaddafi regime in 2011 (including being complicit in his being tortured to death).

Even Iraq’s Saddam Hussein got a show trial before his enemies killed him. Funnily enough, Libya has been a failed state ever since and Europe has been inundated with refugees arriving by sea – dead or alive – from Libya. I imagine Gaddafi is laughing in his grave.

‘Charity begins at home’
So, there is self-interest for New Zealand in staying out of other people’s wars and in working to end existing wars and preventing new ones. And for those who say “charity begins at home” – I agree.

We can help our immediate neighbours on tiny Pacific islands that are threatened by inundation due to climate change. These people did nothing to cause that problem but New Zealand certainly did and continues to do – we have an obligation to open our doors to these climate change refugees.

That is not a solution to the problem (at least this government recognises there is a problem and has pledged to do something about it) but it is an amelioration of the dire effects of that problem. Even if we took in all of those affected Pacific islanders, plus the prisoners from Manus and Nauru, it would all only add up to a few thousand people. We bring in more foreigners than that every year to milk them in shonky “education” courses and to supply New Zealand employers with cheap labour.

How about we change the emphasis from bringing people in to exploit and rip them off to bringing them to help them and, as the Tampa experience shows, helping ourselves in the process? Sounds like a win-win to me.

Murray Horton
Spokesperson
Aotearoa Independence Movement (AIM)

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Vanuatu police chief court case, finance ‘grey list’ pose challenges

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Vanuatu police chief court case, finance ‘grey list’ pose challenges

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Vanuatu police on parade on Port Vila … commissioner issue now in court. Image: Vanuatu Daily Post

COMMENT: By Bob Makin in Port Vila

Two big issues for Vanuatu lead today’s news and need quick resolution to restore confidence in the current administration. There are legal and political sides to both controversies.

The first major outstanding issue is that of the appointment of a Police Commissioner.

A previous Police Service Commission decided that Chief Inspector Albert Nalpini was the best man for the job, but then the commissioner in charge was declared illegal.

The commission’s recommendation for Nalpini’s appointment to the top police job was never enacted; the Head of State never received the recommendation.

Nalpini is now asserting his rights in the matter in court.

Governments have over decades changed the top policemen in Vanuatu: so political has been the posting that we have even seen police commissioners become prime minister.

And there have been mutinies and alleged mutinies. It is just as well all the issues are being brought out in this Supreme Court hearing behind which is the bigger question of whether we can manage our security ourselves or whether we need to appoint outsiders to head the police force again – especially those who may have much wider experience.

On national radio, Vanuatu’s presence on the international Finance Action Taskforce (FATF)’s money-laundering and terrorism financing “grey list” heads the news.

The company we keep: a screengrab from the FATF’s website

” data-medium-file=”https://vanuatudaily.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/fatf-screengrab.png?w=300&h=190″ data-large-file=”https://vanuatudaily.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/fatf-screengrab.png?w=590″/>The company Vanuatu keeps: a screengrab from the FATF’s website. Image: Vanuatu Digest

“How grey is our list?” is the question, not just for the broadcasters but also for the people of Vanuatu and foreign investors.

MP Johnny Koanapo, parliamentary secretary for such issues, told Radio Vanuatu midday news that Vanuatu could lose its “light grey” category easily and even find itself again on the black list.

The Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) which assesses countries’ anti-money-laundering regulations, dirty money and counter-terrorism financing met recently in Sydney and Koanapo was present.

Koanapo saw the meeting as “very, very critical for the economy of Vanuatu because of the Vanuatu Finance Centre.”

It appeared to Koanapo that it would be easy for Vanuatu to find itself blacklisted again.

The Prime Minister had directed Vanuatu’s national coordinating committee to meet with all those concerned with the country’s offshore rating and to discuss the issues there.

New legislation is soon to go before Parliament. It is to be hoped this will quickly restore Vanuatu’s financial credibility internationally.

Bob Makin writes on media and current issues regularly for Vanuatu Digest.