Nuku’alofa – October 27, 2021: 1.55pm (RNZI): A group of 15 lawyers in Tonga has written to King Tupou VI asking him to revoke the appointment of Lord Afeaki as the acting Lord Chief Justice.
The current Lord Chief Justice is Michael Whitten, who is on leave for four months.
Lord Afeaki – who is not a judge – is the chair of the judicial appointments panel which gave him the job.
RNZ Pacific correspondent in Tonga, Kalafi Moala, said the panel has broken with tradition.
“It is the first time that a group of lawyers, and they are comprised of some of the top lawyers of Tonga. They also from the Tonga Law Society. And 15 of them wrote this letter to the King objecting, asking him to revoke the appointment of Afeaki,” he said.
Moala said if a judge was away for some reason in the past, he or she would be replaced by another judge.
The lawyers blamed Lord Dalgety – another member of the panel – for orchestrating the appointment, which they say smacks of cronyism.
They said the judge next in line who should be made the acting Lord Chief Justice is Justice Laki Niu, who in 2018 was the first commoner to be appointed to the bench.