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Supreme Court to hear contempt of court application in latest stage of road contractors row

The Supreme Court will hear an application for contempt of court against the Ministry of Infrastructure brought by three roading contractors on April 12.

Minister for Infrastructure Sevenitini Toumo’ua

The contractors claim the Ministry and Minister of Infrastructure Sevenitini Toumo’ua  have ignored court orders made against them.

The companies, City Engineering and Constructions Ltd, Inter Pacific Ltd and Island Dredging Ltd, were originally contracted by the previous government to work on its highly controversial  roading programme.

The present government issued a call for new tenders on September 22, 2022.

It then issued notices of termination against the three companies on January 18 this year.

The three companies brought an action against the  Ministry and Hon. Toumo’ua and earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled in their favour.

In his summary of the case, dated February 23, Lord Chief Justice Whitten said that pending the final hearing and determination of the proceedings, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Minister were not to take any further action on an invitation for new bids for the Supply and Delivery of Coral Fills to Constituency 9, Matatoa, Kanokupolu and Masilamea Atatā.

They were ordered not act on letters purporting to be Notices of Termination dated 18 January 2023 in respect of the Contracts between it and City Engineering and Constructions Ltd and Inter Pacific Ltd.

They were also ordered to do what was necessary to resume the supply of coral fill to the three contractors.

On  March 6 2023, the three companies filed an application for leave to start proceedings against the Ministry and Hon. Toumo’ua for contempt of court on the grounds that it had failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s orders.

Lord Chief Justice Whitten said that by March 16, it appeared that all that had happened since the orders were made was that a number of meetings with Ministry staff had been conducted to discuss resumption of the works.

However, the plaintiffs had alleged with evidence, that the Minister had expressed an intention to continue with contracts let to other companies, despite an undertaking given on behalf of the Ministry that this would not happen.

“In order to consider those decisions and to enable whatever agreements or decisions that have been reached during the various meetings to date to come to fruition with, hopefully, the resumption of works, it was agreed that further consideration of the application be adjourned to 12 April 2023 at 9 am,” the Lord Chief Justice said.