Tonga Law Society: Parliament denies the people fundamental right to be heard

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Nuku’alofa, Tonga – On 22 October 2020, Tonga Law Society President, Sione Tu’itavake Fonua, issued a press statement saying they are “deeply concerned at the amendment to the Constitution passed unanimously by Parliament on 15 October.”

“The amendment inserts a new clause 89A into the Constitution which requires every Court or Tribunal in the Kingdom to take Tonga’s ‘customs, traditions, practices, values and usages’ into consideration, where relevant, in deciding any matter before them.”

“The Constitution is the supreme law of Tonga which was enacted by King George Tupou I in 1875. It has far reaching effect and is of the utmost importance for the people of Tonga,” Fonua states.

There is also the concern that the public’s views and opinions were not included, or the content of the proposed amendment disclosed to the public.

In addition to that, views of the Tonga Law Society as the representative body of legal practitioners in Tonga were not taking into consideration or involved in the deliberation process.

Fonua said, “In bypassing the consultation process, Parliament has denied the Tongan people the most fundamental right to be heard on a matter of elemental importance to every Tonga subject.”

“Due process demands comprehensive consultation with those persons potentially affected whenever a significant change in the law is proposed – most particularly when those changes involve the Constitution of Tonga. The failure of Parliament to adhere to due process in passing this amendment is a disturbing development,” continues Fonua.

The statement concludes by stating, Tongans will have many different views to consider regarding custom and tradition – those views should be heard. There is no “quick fix” and careful consideration must be given to this matter.

The bill to amend the Constitution, clause 89A, is currently awaiting royal assent from His Majesty Tupou VI to sign into law.

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