TONGA LAWMAKERS CALL FOR SUSPENSION OF MINISTER

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 17, 2008) – Calls are growing for the Tongan Prime Minister to suspend the tourism minister while an investigation into allegations of corruption is completed.

The Auditor General is investigating allegations, made by the director of tourism, that the minister, Fineasi Funaki, misappropriated funds from the ministry.

People’s representative Akilisi Pohiva says it is time for the Prime Minister to show up and respond to the allegations.

"To me, I have no doubt in my mind that all the allegations are true, based on the documents produced to support all the allegations," Pohiva said. "What the Government should have done, the Prime Minister, he should have suspended [the minister]. And not only that, he should go home....he’s directly responsible [for] all these things."

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office says suspending the Minister is not the proper way forward.

He says the Government doesn’t want to pre-empt the findings of the Auditor General and it is fairer to wait for the investigation to be completed.

An independent Tongan MP says the Government should release the details of the investigation into the Minister of tourism.

Member of Parliament Lepolo Taunisila yesterday said rumours had been spreading a long time before the investigation was launched.

"I think that people ought to know, I think it’s their right to access the information, whatever that they can release now they should," he said. "But then they are trying to hold back and maybe, I suspect that they would try to cover up something or, to avoid releasing anything."

Lepolo Taunisila says the minister should resign for the duration of the investigation.

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