Tongan Cabinet Down 2 Ministers After Reshuffling

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Police, agriculture and health portfolios fall on PM’s shoulders

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, July 9, 2012) – Tonga remains without a designated Minister of Police, and a Minister of Agriculture, following the resignation of three Cabinet Ministers on June 25 and the reshuffling of portfolios under new line ministries.

The Acting Secretary to Cabinet, Alfred Soakai confirmed that after the resignations of the former ministers, 'Uliti Uata (Health), Sunia Fili (Police) and 'Isilelil Pulu (Labour, Commerce and Industries), their portfolios had automatically come under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister.

Limited choice

The Prime Minister may appoint new ministers from some of the remaining members of parliament, but it is clear that the selection is difficult because of the very few friendly members of parliament left to choose from. Three who are available are Lord Tu'ilakepa, Lord Tu'iha'ateiho, and Lord Fakafanua.

Last Thursday, June 5, the Deputy Speaker and a Nobles Representative for Vava'u, Lord Tu'i'afitu was sworn in as the new Minister of Health.

A Motion for a Vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister signed by 10 People's Representatives and filed with the Tongan Legislative Assembly on June 18 has polarized the Tongan parliament. It appears that the motion has split the House in half, with 13 People's Representatives in support of the motion that will topple the government, while opposing the move are 12 MPs including eight Nobles Representatives and four People's Representatives (the three Vava'u PRs and the Niuas PR). Presumably, it could have been a draw, 13-13, if the Speaker Lord Lasike was eligible to vote, and he might be expected to join his noble colleagues. However, the Speaker can make only a casting vote in case of a draw.

To get his Cabinet to work the Prime Minister can nominate two more non-elected Cabinet Ministers, but under the Constitution they cannot vote on a Motion for a Vote of No Confidence.

The situation appears to be a game with very small numbers and without much substance because of the concept of a minority government governing by consensus that parliament embraced in 2010.

The total government recurrent expenditure of TOP$225,997,886 [US$128 million] for 2012-13 was released by the Ministry of Finance following the declaration of the Appropriation Act 2012 on July 5.

New Ministries

After the passing of the budget Tonga's new line of Ministries have come into place as of July 6:

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