Wednesday 19th October 2016
Nuku’alofa Times - Page 04
Independence needed around Tongan Anti-Corruption appointment
Lord Fusitu’a AUCKLAND, New Zealand (RNZI-Dateline Pacific): There are worries the independence and effectiveness of Tonga’s first Anti-Corruption commissioner could be affected by government proposals Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has reportedly rejected the Privy Council’s candidate for the position despite the law dictating that the royal body make the appointment. Tonga’s Anti-Corruption
Commission was formed in 2008 but there have been ongoing procedural matters delaying the implementation of the office. Noble Representative Lord Fusitu’a, who is also chair of the Standing Committee on Anti-corruption, told Koro Vaka’uta the government’s latest moves are concerning: LORD FUSITU’A: The move by government to combine the current Office
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of the Commissioner for Public Relations and the Anti-Corruption Commissioner’s office is part of a legislative package whereby the Commissioner for Public Relations, which is our equivalent to the Ombudsman, and the Anti-Corruption Commissioner will be merged into one office, for budgetary reasons. The Commissioner for Public Relations, or Ombudsman, receives more administrative law type complaints whereas the Anti-Corruption Commissioner would deal with corruption, theft, embezzlement, etcetera etcetera. So there is a distinction between the roles which is a concern. The second concern is the legislative package also removes the current requirement that the Anti-Corruption Commissioner carry the equivalence of a judicial officer, which is a Supreme Court judge, and finally initially they made over-
tures that they wanted the appointment made by the Prime Minister and Cabinet. We are told now that they want to send it to the House and have the Commissioner appointed by the Speaker with the consent to the Legislature, so it will end up being voted upon. There’s not that necessarily any problem with that process. My only concern [is] that the office and the officer remain independent and do not become politicised. So whether it’s appointed by Cabinet and the PM or by us in the Legislature and the Speaker, there is still a possibility that the office will become politicised because whoever is appointed to that office would have sensitivities about investigating and recommending prosecution about the powers that appointed him. KORO VAKA’UTA: You
are not too fussed about the procedure as long as it gets to someone independent and transparent, is that right? LF: The ultimate goal is to ensure independence and transparency. The reason I have been advocating for an appointment immediately as a Commissioner, under the current legislation, is that my assessment, both as an MP and as a barrister and solicitor for nearly two decades now and someone who has been involved in drafting legislation, is that the current appointment process is the most independent. His Majesty is not impacted by this investigative process. He has no self-interest in who is appointed and that being the case, I feel that it is the most independent procedure. You will notice that there has been some debate and
conjecture recently from particular members of House regarding a stalemate in implementation of government policy. There seems to be a feeling that there is some obstacles from management to middle management levels of government. The examples used were the Police Commissioner and the Attorney-General, and now we are discussing the Anti-Corruption Commissioner. All these three posts are appointed by His Majesty and Council. My concern is whether this is a coincidence and their arguments that the day to day operations of these various offices are impacted by the fact that they are appointed by His Majesty and Council which strictly speaking, on an operational level, doesn’t make all that much sense.
Fiji calls for changes to PACER Plus
SYDNEY, Australia (FIJI TIMES): Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has warned Australia and New Zealand that if they do not make “flexible” changes to the PACER Plus trade agreement on key concerns regarding Fiji and other Pacific Island nations, Fiji would continue to turn its back on the issue. Hon Bainimarama said his first state visit to Australia after being elected Prime Minister at the Fiji Trade and Investment Symposium in Sydney. Fiji’s critical issues of concern are infant industry development and most favoured nation status. “The current document is too one-sided, too restrictive, places too many obligations on us that we cannot afford to meet. We need more flexibility and more concessions to enable us to have trading relationships with others. So, I repeat, we cannot sign the current document,” Hon Bainimarama said. He said Fiji wanted an enduring, predictable and sustainable trade agreement between Australia and New
Voreqe Bainimarama Zealand on one hand and the Pacific Islands on the other. The Fijian PM said Fiji would continue to seek dialogue and outcomes that would suit all parties. “Fiji has emphatically not withdrawn from PACER Plus. We are still at the table. Yet neither are we prepared to sign the current document — endorse the current legal text — because we simply don’t believe that is in our interest to do so,” he said. He said he personally hoped that Fiji would never have to walk away from signing the PACER Plus agreement. Hon Bainimarama pleaded with the Aus-
tralian business community to support Fiji’s negotiations regarding the issue. “I especially come to you today with an appeal to take a fresh look at trade and investment opportunities in Fiji. And to play your own part in the economic reinvigoration of our relationship to match the new political and diplomatic re-engagement between our nations,” PM Bainimarama said. Hon Bainimarama said he personally believed differences on PACER Plus negotiations could be worked through by all countries. He is expected to make an official visit to New Zealand this week.