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Opposition demands report release

Thursday 8 October 2020 | Written by Legacy Author | Published in Local

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Opposition demands report release
“Given the attitude of Ministry of Transport and the Minister it seems that the only option for the family is to consider filing legal proceedings against Government.” – Tina Browne.

According to Democratic Party Opposition, the Transport ministry has been advised not to release the report into the tragic disappearance of a seven-year old boy, who was lost overboard on a ship.

A report into the tragic disappearance at sea of a seven-year old boy who was on board a local inter-island vessel must be publicly released, Democratic Party Opposition leader Tina Browne says.

Browne, who is the MP for Rakahanga said the family of Lapana Tupou, who went missing while on board the MV Lady Moana on September 18 2019, needed to know the outcome of the investigation by the Ministry of Transport.

The vessel had been sailing to Rarotonga from Rakahanga at the time. It is presumed the little boy fell overboard. Sea and air searches were unsuccessful. The Tupou family are from South Auckland and had been holidaying in their home-island of Rakahanga before sailing back to Rarotonga en route to New Zealand.

Browne recently tabled a request in Parliament for the Minister of Transport Robert Tapaitau to explain the reason the report’s release has been delayed and why it has not been provided to the Tupou family.

Tapaitau said he believed the matter should not be discussed in Parliament and he would prefer this happened outside of the House. He said it was a sensitive issue.

Browne, who is related to the family, claims the completed Ministry of Transport report had been with Cabinet since April this year. No action was taken, she added.

Browne was advised by a Transport ministry official that they could not release the report.

“So I advised the official that I would make a formal request in Parliament for the Minister of Transport to direct the report’s release,” she said.

“The report ended up on my desk shortly afterwards and I did have the chance to read it before it was picked up. In a subsequent email I was advised that Crown law had advised the Transport ministry not to release the report.”

An email seeking clarification on why the report cannot be made public was sent to Transport Secretary John Hosking yesterday.

Tina Browne disclosed that she found the report to be “deficient in terms of the recommendations made for improving safety procedures and requirements for domestic ships”.

“The grieving parents and extended family deserve to know the contents of this report,” she said.

“It is also in the interest of the public to be informed on the results of the investigation as this issue was very much in the public domain at the time Lapana Tupou went missing while on board a vessel that carried passengers.”

Browne said that she was not surprised with the manner in which Minister of Transport is handling this matter.

First, the ministry refused to have the incident investigated by an “independent” investigator, she said, adding they instead had an employee of the Transport ministry investigate the matter.

“It is like Ministry of Transport investigating itself. Second, Ministry of Transport is now refusing to release the report,” Browne said.

“Given the attitude of Ministry of Transport and the Minister it seems that the only option for the family is to consider filing legal proceedings against Government.”