People’s Representative Testifies In Tonga Insurance Case
NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Nov. 9, 2012) – 'Isileli Pulu who followed a crowd of rioters and witnessed damage to businesses during the 16 November 2006 Nuku'alofa riots, was vigorously questioned on his movements on that day, when he gave evidence in aninsurance case heard at the Nuku'alofa Supreme Court yesterday.
During the hard questioning the judge warned 'Isileli that he may not answer any questions if he felt it might incriminate himself.
'Isileli, a Tongatapu People's Representative, was called by eight plaintiffs from local businesses whose properties were destroyed during the riots, to give evidence on his observations of the day.
In his evidence in chief, 'Isileli said at the time of the riots he was a People's Representative to Parliament, and was an independent representative active in the pro-democracy movement.
He said he joined the People's Committee for Political Reform in their wish to see pro-democratic reforms in Tonga. He had attended its meeting. It was established that to achieve democratic reform it was to be done by peaceful means, which was known to everyone. That purpose had never changed, he said.
"The meetings that were held prior to November 16 was in response to the Minister of Police who said we had little support for democratic change, but we had high level support from the people. People gathered at Pangai Si'i and I went there occasionally," he said.
'Isileli said no particular organization was running Pangai Si'i as it was open to everyone.
'Isileli said he did not recall when they became aware that parliament was not sitting in the afternoon of November 16. He recalled that he saw a group of people move from Pangai Si'i towards the Prime Minister's Office and he found out later that they had thrown things at the window.
He saw another group that went along Railway Road heading to Molisi supermarket so he followed them, but he didn't stop there to see the destruction. He instead followed another group onto Taufa'ahau Road to the Pacific Royale Hotel where a group of people damaged the hotel. From there he went on to Shoreline and saw rioters damaging windows and at some point he saw smoke.
"A police officer there asked me to do something but I told him there was nothing I could do," he said.
He said he not plan the attacks alone or with others, nor did he incite what had happened, as the crowd were out of control.
He denied claims by witnesses that they saw him speaking on his mobile and said things to the effect, to proceed to plan 4. "I did use my mobile but it was to call my wife and sister who were at Pangai Si'i," he said. He said he also tried ringing 'Akilisi Pohiva but he could not get through.
'Isileli said he came back to Pangai but none of the People's Representatives were there as they were at the Cabinet Room so he went there and told them what he had seen.
During cross-examination by defense counsel Michael Ring, 'Isileli was asked whether he knew that Molisi supermarket was owned by the family of the Prime Minister at the time, Feleti Sevele.
'Isileli answered yes.
"Did it immediately occur to you that people targeted Molisi because of its association with the Prime Minister?" asked the counsel
'Isileli said yes.
Counsel asked if before he got to Pacific Royale Hotel, had he heard people say "Ramanlal" and so he knew where the crowd was going next.
'Isileli said no he was not sure if he heard it but he walked down the road to the hotel
Counsel asked him if he knew the hotel was owned by business associates of the king, "it was obvious to you that it was a political target?"
'Isileli said it was possible.
"It was probable?" asked counsel, and 'Isileli said yes.
Counsel put to 'Isileli that 'Amanaki Paea would give evidence for the defence, to say that he was looking from his shop opposite the hotel and saw 'Isileli near the front of the crowd and he apparently led the crowd.
'Isileli disagreed with this and said he was there with other people and there were others standing in front of him.
'Isileli was asked about Tavake Tafuna and he called out "to Shoreline". A video was shown in court of Tavake shouting "Shoreline". Counsel put to him, that he knew immediately this was another political target.
'Isileli said it was not a political target as he did not know what they were doing it for.
"You are an MP and you think politics everyday?" asked counsel.
'Isileli said yes.
"You passed Molisi it was targeted. People yelled for "Ramanlal" and followed to Pacific Royale Hotel. You knew that was politically targeted as it was a business owned by associates of king?"
'Isileli said no as he did not know because people might be looking for something else.
"But they did not touch anything between Molisi and the hotel?" asked the counsel.
'Isileli answered there were some shops that were looted for drinks but admitted that he did not see it.
Counsel asked him if it was obvious Shoreline was owned by the king and business associates that owned Pacific Royale Hotel.
'Isileli said yes.
"The banners at Pangai had salaries of the Directors of Shoreline?"
'Isileli said yes.
"It was obvious that was a political target?" asked the counsel.
"To some extent," said 'Isileli.
"Would you adhere to the view that it was probable?' asked counsel.
'Isileli said yes, it was probable.
"Shoreline in certainty was a target?" asked counsel.
It was probable, answered 'Isileli.
"It was higher than probable?" put the counsel.
'Isileli answered he did not know what they were after.
During the vigorous cross-examination, Mr Justice Charles Cato warned the MP that he may not answer any questions that he felt might incriminate him.
'Isileli's evidence was completed yesterday afternoon, November 8.
The plaintiffs include Shoreline Group Ltd., Shoreline Communications Ltd., E.M. Jones Ltd., Jones Travel Ltd., E.M. Jones (Koloua) Ltd., Jones Industries Ltd., Joseph Ramanlal Vallabh Trading as Pacific Royale Hotel and the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, that are suing National Pacific Insurance (Tonga) Ltd. for insurance claims.
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