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The Language of the Laws of Tonga - Which Text Prevails?

Tupou, Mele (2014) The Language of the Laws of Tonga - Which Text Prevails? Journal of the South Pacific Law, 2014 . pp. 1-13. ISSN 1684-5307

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There is a current debate in Tonga as to which version or text should prevail in situations where there is a difference in meaning between the Tongan text and the English text of a clause of the Constitution of Tonga 1875. On 29 August 2012, the Legislative Assembly mandated its Standing Committee on Legislation to conduct a public consultation on a government bill to amend Clause 8 of the Tongan text of the Constitution of Tonga. Clause 8 provides for the ‘Right to petition’. The amendment proposed by the Act of Constitution (Amendment) Bill was intended to ‘fix an obvious typographical anomaly between the English and Tongan versions of Clause 8 of the Constitution.’ Because of this alleged typographical anomaly, the English text of the clause is interpreted to give a different meaning from Clause 8 of the Tongan text of the Constitution. The proposed amendment would have resulted in changing the Tongan text to be consistent with the English text. The proposed amendment to Clause 8 is the first time an issue of this nature has directly confronted the Assembly to make a determination thereon. Because of the strong opposition to the effect of the proposed amendment, the question then was whether the Assembly should ‘consult “the people,” over a proposal to amend the Tongan version of Clause 8…to bring it into line with the English version’. Some members did not see the need to consult the people over this issue, while other members believed that having the people’s say was important because the issue required careful rather than hasty consideration. Even though the essential question raised by the Bill is whether the English text of Clause 8 of the Constitution should be preferred over the Tongan text, this matter raises issues of wider importance for the purpose of the Constitution of Tonga. That is, where there is conflict or difference between the English text and the Tongan text of the Constitution, should there be a principle as to which is to prevail? Alternatively, perhaps there is a case for saying that each situation of difference of meaning should be considered in light of its own circumstances. This paper will begin with a brief description of the requirement to publish law in both the Tongan and English languages before it examines the different circumstances in which differences may arise. It will also analyze Clause 8 and address the issues relating to the law that governs which language would prevail and the extent to which the mixed ages and origins of clauses of the Constitution are likely to cause differences in meaning.

Item Type: Journal Article
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Law and Education (FALE) > School of Law
Depositing User: Mele Tupou
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2015 04:20
Last Modified: 27 May 2016 01:25

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