Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Letter reveals night repairs on sunken ferry -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: To Tonga now where it's still not known what caused the ferry accident which killed
74 people last month.

Now a secret letter written by the boss of Tonga's Port Authority and sent to the country's Prime
Minister has been leaked to a newspaper.

In the letter the boss of the Port Authority reveals that repairs were made to the ferry under
cover of night, as New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie reports.

KERRI RITCHIE: A few days after the Princess Ashika sank the chief of Tonga's Port Authority Lupeti
Vi wrote a letter to his Prime Minister.

He told the ABC he felt it was his duty to tell Feleti Sevele everything he could remember about
the ferry.

He outlined in the letter how he'd noticed welding on the vessel and when he asked some questions
he discovered the repair job had been done at night without the correct permits. Commander Vi said
the welding might have been done in darkness to stop locals raising concerns.

He also warned the Prime Minister that there would be bloodshed if the victims' families ever
learned the truth - that the ferry was unseaworthy.

The letter was never meant to be seen by the public but today it was printed in Ke'lea, a
pro-democracy newspaper in Tonga.

When contacted by the ABC this morning Commander Vi said he'd just been instructed by his lawyer
not to do any more media interviews.

Early this morning he did speak to Radio New Zealand International.

LUPETI VI: I'm not worried about it because what I said in the letter is the truth, you know. And
whatever the consequences of that, you know, it's up to the people to decide.

All I am telling you I am not happy to see that the letter has been published publicly in the paper
or the media because the letter was written to the Prime Minister.

KERRI RITCHIE: The Princess Ashika was owned by the Government but it was managed and operated by
The Shipping Corporation of Polynesia.

The boss, New Zealand man John Jonesse, wouldn't go on tape but he did admit maintenance was done
at night.

He said the company wasn't trying to hide anything. It was just taking advantage of the limited
amount of time the Princess Ashika spent in the port.

Tongan woman Elisapeta Ofa lost her mother, sister and brother when the ferry went down.

What do you feel about this letter from the ports boss that says that work might have been done at
night time so locals wouldn't question the seaworthiness of the boat?

ELISAPETA OFA: There is something they've been hiding. We the family would like to get to the
bottom of this. Why they did it at night. Why not during the day? It makes me mad now.

If the Government are not going to do anything, come up with answers to us family, to give us a
satisfactory answer, then probably something else is going to happen which I'm too afraid. I don't
want the people of Tonga to go, to do anything like how they burn up the city in Tonga. But the
people are angry now.

KERRI RITCHIE: The port authority boss thought that there could be bloodshed on the streets, the
anger was so great. Is that what you think, rioting?

ELISAPETA OFA: I think that is just what I don't want that to happen but I think that's what is
going to end up that is what is going to happen if the Government is not going to give the people
in Tonga the truth.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Elisapeta Ofa speaking to our New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie.