Tokelau Cabinet Minister Foua Toloa Removed From Position

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New Zealand allegedly ‘unhappy’ with Toloa’s recent decisions

By Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, June 27, 2012) – A Tokelau Cabinet minister with connections to Samoa, Foua Toloa, has been stripped by the Tokelau government of his ministerial responsibilities.

The decision was confirmed by the General Manager for the Office of the Fakaofo Taupulega, Hina Puka, to the Samoa Observer. "It happened at the national level, not the village level," she said. "The matter is currently being discussed by the Village Council. Any decision, given the nature of the issue, we will not make any official comment because no decision has been made in regards to Fakaofo.

"There isn’t a by-election happening. It hasn’t even been discussed." Mr. Toloa could not be contacted for a comment. Repeated phone calls and an email sent to him were not responded to at press time, last night. But the Tokelau government is made up of three Cabinet ministers elected from each of Tokelau’s three villages Fakaofo, Nukunonu and Atafu. Each village governs itself, but all come together, usually four times a year, as Parliament (called the General Fono) to make decisions binding all three villages.

It is at this national level where Mr. Toloa’s portfolios were removed earlier this month. Ms. Puka would not comment on reasons for Mr. Toloa’s change of government status.

"The matter is very sensitive to us at this very moment," said Ms. Puka. "As the unity of our village and of the nation is very important in many aspects of our daily lives, I don’t want to say anything nor put the village mayor or faipule [Member of Parliament] in a position that will sideline [them] or anyone at this point in time. "Our unity at this moment is of utmost importance."

However, a Samoa Observer source with the same government status as Ms. Puka on the condition of anonymity alleged the New Zealand government was behind the move. "The New Zealand government initiated the stripping of his [Mr. Toloa] portfolios," he said.

"New Zealand made the move because they are very unhappy with the way some decisions [by Mr. Toloa] were made earlier this year and the second one I think he’s [Mr. Toloa] partly the delay of the implementation of the projects.

"For example the short term solution for transport and also the long-term solution for transport". Tokelau is a colony of New Zealand. Overseeing the Government of Tokelau is a statutory position appointed by New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade called the Administrator of Tokelau.

[PIR editor’s note: Radio New Zealand International reports Tokelau’s public service head, Joe Suveinakama, claims issues between Tokelau and New Zealand, particularly the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Ulu O Tokelau, indicated the time was right for Toloa to stand down. "It has got to do with shipping decisions," Suveinakama says.]

Currently the post is held by Mr. Jonathan Kings based in Wellington. Several telephone queries and an email message to Mr. Kings were not responded to by the time this edition went to print. But according to the source the removal of Mr. Toloa’s portfolios is not a surprise.

"This is not something new, and it’s not a surprise at the national level and village level. He’s been having clashes continuously with Tokelau and the Fakaofo Taupulega, so a lot of people are very happy with the decision."

The Finance and Transport portfolios have been passed to the current Head of Tokelau, Mr. Kelisiano Kalolo of Atafu. He is currently attending the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

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