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Laki is first local judge in 100 years

Justice Minister Vuna Fa'otusia, (left), and new Supreme Court Judge, Laki Niu at a South Pacific Lawyers conference in 2013 Photo: IGMEDIA / South Pacific Lawyers

NUKU’ALOFA – June 29, 2018: 2.50pm (Nuku’alofa Times): Local lawyer Laki Niu has created history by becoming the first local Supreme Court Judge in 100 years.

He was appointed by His Majesty King Tupou VI last week.

His appointment becomes effective next week.

Judge-elect Niu is expected to be sworn in this week and will serve the bench for four years.

The appointment has been welcomed by Justice Minister Hon Vuna Fa’otusia.


Hon Fa’otusia said Mr Niu was ideal for the job as he is one of the most experienced lawyers in the country and a former President of the Tonga Law Society and former Member of Parliament.

Mr Niu will join two New Zealanders on the bench.

Hon Fa’otusia is hoping to have an all-Tongan Supreme Court bench by 2020 and hopes that court proceedings will one day be conducted in Tongan instead of English.

He said concerns about Tongan judges having too many family links could be alleviated by adding more locals.

“The thing that we have to do is to ensure that we have at least three Supreme Court judges on the bench,” Hon Fa’otusia told RNZI in an interview.

“So that is something that we have to do, most probably after the contracts of our New Zealand Supreme Court judges, which is next year.”

In the meantime he said the latest appointment was long overdue.

“I guess in early 1910 we had a Tongan Supreme Court but after that it has such a long time for Tonga to have someone on the bench, especially on the Supreme Court and finally Tonga accepts that there is someone good enough to be in the Supreme Court.”

Mr Niu was one of the pioneers of the democratic movement in Tonga and served as an MP for some years.

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