Report on the Nuku’alofa Development Council/Corporation and the Reconstruction of the Nuku’alofa Central Business District using TOP$ 119 million (440 RMB million) in loan funds from the People’s Republic of China
NUKU’ALOFA: This statement is made in response to public comments on the Report, made by the Attorney General, Mr. Neil Adsett to the Government owned Tonga Broadcasting Commission, and aired on September 13, 2011. Due to the political nature of Mr. Adsett’s comments, the Chairman of the Committee feels it’s necessary in the interests of the public to respond.
1. Mr. Neil Adsett should have known that the motion to refer the Report to the independent Office of the Attorney General was overwhelmingly rejected by the Parliament on Wednesday, September 12, 2012. That Mr. Adsett chose to speak publicly and specifically in contravention of the Parliament, is unacceptable.
2. The Report is still being deliberated by the House, and will likely be referred to a Parliamentary Committee, which is yet to be decided, for further work before it is referred to the appropriate Government authorities. Public comments by Mr. Adsett on the possibility of criminal prosecutions from the report, either way, are premature. All the supporting evidence has yet to be considered by a Parliamentary Committee.
3. The Committee strongly disagrees with Mr. Adsett’s interpretation and opinion of the 2007 Resolution by the Parliament to approve the China loan. The Committee reviewed the House deliberations in 2007, and the original Resolution in the Tongan language, and strongly reiterates that the China loan was approved for the specific purpose of rebuilding the buildings burnt “mofia” in the 2006 riots. Legal opinions in dispute should be left for final resolution by the Courts, and not done by the Attorney General in the public arena.
4. The Attorney General is solely appointed by His Majesty the King in Council. One of the projects for which the report found that the China loan was not approved for - was the Royal Palace. The Attorney General will also represent the Government should an independent prosecutor decide to prosecute members of the former and present Government in their official capacities. Mr. Adsett, stating the independence of his office, while making public comments on the lack of criminal activity requiring prosecution are premature.
5. The Attorney General commented on the disputed costs of the Australian firm engaged and then terminated by the Government to do this same work now claiming the Government owes them $1 million. As that legal claim is currently in dispute, and an ongoing concern of the Government, Mr. Adsett’s comments are premature.
The Committee strongly rejects the insinuation that the Australian firm’s costs are attributed to the Committee’s Report. The Committee’s Report was not based on the Australian firm’s work. The Committees Report is fully its own work. Reference by Mr. Adsett to the Australian firm’s costs is completely irrelevant. The comment only serves to falsely create negative implications upon the Report, and the work of the Committee.
6. The Report repeatedly recommends that the Legislative Assembly refer its findings to be investigated further by the appropriate Government authorities. The Attorney General’s uninvited public comments, before the Parliament has concluded the work, bring the independence of his Office as an “appropriate Government authority” into question.
7. The Attorney General’s public hope that Parliament would “continue with more important work in the House, such as the 15 bills already submitted and 10 soon to be submitted and that the Parliament should focus on them”, is totally unprofessional and unacceptable. Mr Adsett should know his place in the context of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Tonga, and should not tell the Parliament of Tonga what is important, what is not, and what it should focus on.
For further media comment on this statement: