Lord Fusitu’a, noble representative from Niua, who is also a practicing attorney, argued in Parliament that the amendments proposed by the Government to the Criminal Offences Act are unconstitutional.
Other Members of Parliament, notably, Hon. Samiu Vaipulu, former Deputy Prime Minister, also aired the noble’s concerns.
The main issues debated had to do with two amendments to the Criminal Offences Act (Section 126 and 127) tabled by the Government.
The first was to withdraw any need for “collaborative evidence” by the victim of a crime. In other words, the testimony of the victim was enough to convict the accused. It would be the victim’s word against the accused, and the presiding judge is to determine which testimony in a “one to one” contest is more reliable.
The second was to take away the right of choice for a trial by Judge or Jury from a second or third defendant, if the first defendant has chosen to be tried by a Judge only.
Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva told the House that Government is bringing these amendment in order to facilitate a request from the Judiciary to make the process of bringing judgment in certain cases easier.
But Lord Fusitu’a said this facilitation for the convenience of the judiciary should never be the basis of any law or amendment to the law.
Both these amendments contravene the Constitution, he said.
The Criminal Offences Act makes provision for an accused to choose the mode of trial, whether by Judge or Jury.
Lord Fusitu’a also advocated in Parliament that a key requirement in the Constitution is that the laws of Tonga are to be applied equally to all without one law to one group and a different law to another.
Both the Prime Minister and his Justice Minister, Hon. Vuna Fa’otusia tried to defend the amendments submitted by the Government, but Lord Fustitu’a seemed to have persuaded the Members of the House to reject the amendments.
The Government withdrew the amendments and promised to resubmit them in a form that would be more acceptable.