Editorials 11 April 2010

The Herald welcomes the changes:

Criminal defence lawyers have escaped remarkably unscathed by the damning report they received from a ministerial inquiry into legal aid last year. Decisions announced by the Justice Minister, Simon Power, this week will impose requirements on publicly financed lawyers that are no more than reasonable and long overdue. …

It will be interesting to see how well a full-fledged Public Defender Service competes with the car-boot brigade. Mr Power has been advised that the costs of setting up the service can be recovered in lower operating costs. It is hard to believe lawyers working in public service conditions can match the efficiencies of those who work with low overheads and greater mobility, but we may see.

The difference may be in the remuneration lawyers at the PDS get, compared to the income a car boot lawyer can make from legal aid.

The Press is concerned over the proposed Fijian media controls:

The freedom of the media clearly remains a totally alien and undesirable concept for ’s self-appointed leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama. …

The decree, to be enforced by a media authority appointed by the regime, would provide for fines of NZ$344,000 for news organisations that failed to comply with it.

Individual journalists whose work was deemed to be critical of Bainimarama’s regime would face fines of up to NZ$69,000, which would be crippling in Fiji, and a possible five-year prison term. To ensure the authorities knew who had written a story, it would also be an offence not to identify the journalist concerned.


The regime claims its decree is intended to encourage responsible journalism, but nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, it aims to ensure the news media cannot perform its democratic role of holding Bainimarama’s unsavoury government to account and promoting free and frank debate on issues of public interest.

Absolutely. I want to believe that the Commodore has a plan to put in place a non race based constitution, and return to democratic elections in 2014. But his actions point towards an ongoing dictatorship.

The Dom Post focuses on the Princess Ashika ferry tragedy:

The report of the Tongan royal commission of inquiry into the sinking of the ferry Princess Ashika has laid bare a system of government as riddled with flaws as the ship was with rust – and just as dangerous. …

However, it is up to the king to deal with the systemic ones that allowed people such as Lord Dalgety QC (the title is Tongan), now resigned transport minister Paul Karalus and Prime Minister Feleti Sevele into pivotal roles in his kingdom. The report notes that Lord Dalgety, the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia company secretary, “clearly lacks integrity and honesty, even when giving evidence before a royal commission” and that “he was not a fit and proper person to be a company secretary of any company in ”.

I have some friends who have lived in Tonga. They alerted me to the vileness of Lord Dalgety some time ago, and what I have seen of him on television reinforces their view that he is a deeply corrupt and racist individual. His arrest was a very good thing. While I don’t condone Wikipedia vandalism, I did have to laugh at the edit done to his Wikipedia profile which said:

On February 26 Lord Dalgety, the Secretary of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia Ltd, gained an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s lowest form of life

Back to the editorial:

What must not be forgotten in all this is that 74 people drowned. No women or children survived. The impact in a country the size of Tonga is, as commentator Josephine Latu has pointed out, the equivalent of 3200 New Zealanders dying. The Princess Ashika tragedy was a scandal that cannot be repeated.

Absolutely. And may the tragedy bring about some democratic reform.

The ODT talks foreshore & seabed:

Just let us pause for a moment: if the legal status of the foreshore and seabed is to be “public domain”, then who owns it, and therefore can claim the rights and benefits of ownership?

Will Maori?

Will Mr and Mrs Joe Bloggs?

Will the Crown – the obvious choice?

On the basis of the options paper published by the Government last week, in which “public domain” is the Government’s preferred choice, the issue of ownership most likely will be determined in the long term by the courts, piece by piece, over time.

Well yes courts do determine rights. The editorial writer (whom I suspect is the former Labour Government Press Secretary) presumably prefers the status quo where the right to test your rights in court was extinguished.

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