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Attorney General Announces Establishment Of Royal Commission

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The inter-island ferry, the MV Princess Ashika, sank in Tongan waters in the early hours of 6 August 2009. This tragic accident has touched us all and we are deeply saddened to hear that some 93 victims remain unaccounted for. May I express my deepest sympathy to the bereaved families.

His Majesty in Council and The Government of Tonga on the advice of my office of the Attorney-General has established the Royal Commission into the Sinking of the MV Princess Ashika (the Royal Commission) to inquire into the circumstances and causes of this tragedy.

The Royal Commission will be made up of three Commissioners. It is required to make its enquiry and to furnish to the King in Council and the Legislative Assembly its interim report or reports as quickly as possible, and in any event, no later than 30 November 2009 and their final report no later than 31 March 2010.

I am also pleased to be able to announce the appointment of the Hon Justice Warwick Andrew CBE, CRH as the Chairman of the Royal Commission.

Justice Andrew is a Supreme Court Judge in Tonga. His Honour is an experienced lawyer and Jurist who has practiced his law and presided in Pacific Courts for over 40 years. He is a former Wing/Commander of the RAAF Legal Reserve. He was the Royal Commissioner for the SANDLINE Inquiry in PNG where the Government of PNG stood aside during an inquiry into the use of foreign mercenary soldiers in Bougainville. He has conducted several inquiries including Royal Commissions on Marine and Air Transport matters.

A Royal Commission is the highest form of inquiry in The Kingdom. Any other inquiry would have to be established by the Government, which is not appropriate in the circumstances of this disaster. This Royal Commission does not require the approval of any Ministry nor does it rely for its authority on any political mandate.

As Tonga does not have the technical expertise and resources necessary to allow the Royal Commission to conduct an inquiry of this nature and magnitude, the Tongan government has requested the assistance of the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

I urge every person; especially members of the media, those in positions of responsibility and public figures in The Kingdom to allow this independent Royal Commission to get on with its inquiry into the true cause of this disaster. The Royal Commission hearings will provide an opportunity for the victims and survivors stories to be told in a sensitive, respectful and measured way. The Royal

~more~ Commission will collect and carefully analyze evidence concerning the cause of the disaster. May I urge restraint and temperance in further public comment or speculation about matters, which the Royal Commission is charged to cover.

As the first law officer of this country appointed independently by His Majesty, I must ensure that inquiries of this nature are conducted independently and fairly and I will act against anyone found to be obstructive or in contempt of the Royal Commission.

It is the intention of the Royal Commission Chairman to make a further announcement about the terms of reference and rules of procedure for the inquiry at the earliest opportunity.

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