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‘Akau‘ola refuses to vacate former government property

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Aug. 29, 2011) – The family of 'Akau'ola, the Special Adviser to the Tongan Prime Minister, were evacuated under police supervision from a private property on Hala Tupoulahi on Friday afternoon, 26 August, after defying a court order to leave.

'Akau'ola and his family had refused to move from the property, a former government flat, which was among several government properties that were tendered and sold late last year.

A Nuku'alofa accountant, Sitiveni 'Esau bid for the property and won. He paid the remaining 80 percent of the total value of the property of about $160,000 on 22 November 2010, and was issued with the land deeds.

However, since November last year, Sitiveni and his family had not been able to move into their new home, because the occupants, 'Akau'ola and his family refused to leave.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Tonga on 28 July ordered for 'Akau'ola to vacate the property within 28 days.

The removal time was up at noon on Thursday, 25 August, but by Friday 26 August, Sitiveni said that 'Akau'ola and his family were still at his property and had not complied with the court order.

On Friday, the Supreme Court ordered the police to "take possession" of the property.

Sitiveni said that 'Akau'ola was not at home when he arrived with the police to take possession of his property, but 'Akau'ola's wife was there. She pleaded for more time so that they could talk to their lawyer, but Sitiveni pointed out that there was a Court Order for them to vacate the property, and this time it was for him to take possession of the property, so they had to move out immediately.

"But we have no home to go to," pleaded Mrs 'Akau'ola.

Sitiveni 'Esau asks Mrs 'Akau'ola to leave his property

Sitiveni said he could not put up any longer with 'Akau'ola's delaying tactics, because even his nine months rent of $300 a month for the flat where he had been staying since November 2010 had not been repaid by 'Akau'ola, as agreed in an out of court settlement of costs on 28 July.

Sitveni had to take the case to the court because the officials from the Ministry of Public Enterprises who sold the property had not become involved in the process of removing 'Akau'ola.

Sitiveni said that he had become aware that because of 'Akau'ola's high position in government as the special advisor to the prime minister that civil servants were scared of losing their jobs if they became actively involved in the problem.

One of the reasons why the court hearing was delayed for so long was because the relevant officers from the Ministry of Public Enterprises were not available to attend the hearing.

"I can't believe that this could happen in this day and age," said Sitiveni, who said the saga was "extremely stressful - I feel as though I have run a marathon to get here."

He understood that 'Akau'ola came to live in the house when he was a civil servant, the CEO of Civil Aviation under the government of Prince Lavaka 'Ata 'Ulukalala, but had continued to live there after he resigned from government in 2007 when he became a highly-paid consultant.

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