Pōhiva accuses Acting Attorney General of interfering in Lord Tuʻilakepa’s fire arms case

Tonga’s Prime Minister Hon. ʻAkilisi Pohiva has accused Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu of interfering in Lord Tuʻilakepa’s firearms case.

Lord Tu’ilakepa was sentenced earlier this month and ordered to pay fine of TP$10,000 within 14 days after pleading guilty to firearms and ammunition charges.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and if Lord Tu’ilapeka had been jailed for two or more years he would have lost all his noble privileges and title.

He escaped the jail terms and still holds his title.

In a letter released to the media, the Prime Minister said Kefu appeared to have interfered  “with the independence and impartiality of a pending decision by a Supreme Judge of His Majesty’s Judiciary.”

The Prime Minister has demanded that Kefu responds to what he described as his “grave concerns.”

Kefu told Kaniva News he had just seen the letter as he was traveling overseas and would return and deal with the matter.

“I am fully prepared to answer and it is based on a total misunderstanding of judicial proceedings, and the role of the AG”, Kefu said.

Hon. Pohiva claimed Kefu, the principal legal officer who represents the Crown and the state in legal proceedings, appeared to have attempted “to reduce the severity of the case”.

He argued that Kefu failed in his role to bring full justice against Lord Tu’ilakepa.

He also accused him of trying to diminish the severity of the case in comments made on air.

The Prime Minister said  Lord Tu’ilakepa should have been treated the same way as the other people involved in the case.

Police laid firearms charges against Lords Lasike, Tu’ilakepa and Tuʻihaʻateiho, for illegal possession of firearms and weapons several years ago.

Hon. Pohiva said Lord Lasike’s case was heard four years ago. Lord Tu’ilakepa was only heard this year and Lord Tu’iha’ateiho’s case is yet to be heard.

He expressed concern about the different sentences handed down to Lord Lasike and Lord Tu’ilakepa, saying he found them “to be discriminating and excessive”.

According to the Prime Minister’s letter, only one bullet case was found in Lord Lasike’s residence while two caches of ammunition were found at Lord Tu’ilakepa’s residences, in Longolongo and Ofu.

The Prime Minister said Kefu should not have pleaded for a lesser sentence for Lord Tu’ilakepa during his court prosecution hearing.

“Is it normal for a Crown Barrister like the Solicitor and acting Attorney General and now acting Attorney General, to be directly involved in seeking a lesser severe penalty for the defendant with the presiding judge of a case?” the Prime Minister said.

Hon Pohiva told Kefu his attitude may have been accepted by former administrations but it “has no place in my government”.

“The prolonged and unnecessary delay in bringing the case of Lord Tu’ilakepa to court baffled me,” the Prime Minister said.

For more information

You can read the Prime Minister’s letter in full here: Prime Minister’s Letter to Attorney General

The main points

  • Tongan Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pohiva has accused Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu of interfering in Lord Tuʻilakepa’s firearms case.
  • Lord Tu’ilakepa was sentenced earlier this month and ordered to pay fine of TP$10,000 within 14 days after pleading guilty to firearms and ammunition charges.
  • The offence carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and if Lord Tu’ilapeka had been jailed for two or more years he would have lost all his noble privileges and title.
  • The Prime Minister has demanded that Kefu respond to what he described as his “grave concerns.”

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