In an embarrassment for the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party and the Catholic Church, CLP candidate and prominent indigenous Catholic Tristan Mungatopi has been charged with drug possession.

Mungatopi was arrested and charged with possession of 48 grams of cannabis at Nguiu Airport on Bathurst Island. He was also charged with bringing alcohol — apparently a bottle of bourbon — into a restricted area.

Mungatopi is a Catholic who works with the Archdiocese of Melbourne as an Indigenous Education Officer and represents Melbourne’s Aboriginal Catholic Ministry. He has been a youth patron for the Parliament of World’s Religions, and was prominently involved in 20th anniversary celebrations of Pope John Paul II’s Alice Springs address in 2006. He was also invited by then-Education Minister Julie Bishop to speak at her launch of the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program.

Mungatopi contested the Tiwi Islands based seat of Arafura against Labor’s Deputy Leader Marion Scrymgour. The CLP campaigned under a “Firm But Fair” law and order policy at the recent election, complaining that Labor has presided over a legal system “barely holding its own.” Mungatopi himself declared:

Too many Territorians are now afraid for their safety on our streets at any time of the day or night.  With violent crime up 83% since 2001, it is time we had a firm but fair approach to policing, crime and law and order.

The amount of cannabis Mungatopi is alleged to have been in possession of is 2 grams shy of a trafficable amount under NT law.

The Country Liberal Party said it had been trying unsuccessfully to contact Mungatopi since yesterday in order to discuss the charges.

Peter Fray

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