THE Legislative Assembly has approved to amend the Rules of the Procedures 125 subsection 3(a) (House Rules) to be consistent with clause 62 subsection 2 of the Constitution.
This follows a submission of a second legal opinion from Tonga’s former Attorney General Mr. Neil Adsett that the Rule was invalid and unconstitutional.
The Clerk of Parliament Gloria Pole'o sought another legal advice on September 10 from Mr. Adsett upon the Speaker’s direction.
“In my opinion the current Rule 125(3)(a) is not a valid rule because it is contrary to the Constitution by attempting to restrict the right of any member to introduce a Bill on any subject.
Accordingly Rule 125(3)(a) of the Rules of Procedure is invalid, ultra vires, the Constitution. All members have a constitutional right to introduce a Bill on any subject and not only if it is a public matter.
The Constitution does not allow this right to be restricted just because a member who is also a Minister may also be able to go through government channels to introduce a Bill,” according to Mr. Adsett advice.
On May 12 the Prime Minister Hon. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa tabled a motion into Parliament seeking amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga (Rules 125 subsection 3(a).
Cabinet was adamant an amendment of the Rule was necessary. It was amended in 2016 which gave non-Cabinet elected MPs only the right to introduce a Private Bill in the Assembly.
In his opinion Adsett say, the Constitution is the paramount law of Tonga and no other laws or rules are valid to the extent that they are contrary to it.
He maintained that “Clause 62(2) of the Constitution is clear and the court will interpret it according to its ordinary meaning to give any member the right to introduce a Bill on any subject, in accordance with valid rules of procedure.”
The former AG also pointed out it is sensible for all of government to rely primarily on the Attorney General for legal advice.
“The Attorney General is best placed to access the best unbiased specialist experts if outside legal help is needed,” according to Neil Adsett’s advice.