Tonga MP Proposes Caretaker Government Before Elections

admin's picture

‘Aisake Eke introduces bill with five constitutional amendments

By Pesi Fonua

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 21, 2013) – A Bill to dissolve Tonga’s government was proposed in parliament this afternoon, 21 September. It proposes that a caretaker government be installed in preparation for elections in November next year.

The proposal to dissolve government was one of five proposed amendments to the Tongan Constitution that were presented by 'Aisake Eke, the People’s Representative (PR) No. 5 for Tongatapu.

In a brief summary of his Private Member's Bill, 'Aisake also proposed for the Prime Minister to be elected by the people from the 26 elected members of parliament, and for the termination of the clause that allows the Prime Minister to appoint not more than four unelected members to his Cabinet.

Lord Nuku, the Nobles' Representative (NR) for 'Eua queried the logic of changing again a system of government that they had put into operation less than three years, costing millions of dollars. He wondered how much it would cost to implement the proposed changes. He wanted to know if 'Aisake had carried out a public consultation over his Bill, or if was it one of the policies of the unofficial parties that some PRs had affiliated with.

He proposed for the member to withdraw his Bill because they would waste time and money on something that was unrelated to the immediate needs of the country and people, 'to provide employment opportunities so that they could earn a living.'

'Aisake responded that the Bill was his own making, and it was his contribution to Tonga’s democratization process. He likened his sudden push for more democracy for Tonga to the America’s Cup yacht race, where against the odds, the USA won after implementing a few fundamental changes.

The America’s Cup comparison according to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Lord Vaea, was out of sync with Tonga's political reform.

The Chairman of the Whole House Committee Hon. Sunia Fili, pleaded with members to leave the America’s Cup Yacht race out and return to Bill.

Lord Nuku, however, disagreed with the move to terminate the right of the PM to appoint four unelected members of parliament into his Cabinet.

He supported his argument by pointing out that if the Prime Minister didn't have the right to appoint unelected members of parliament into Cabinet, he would not be able to replace elected MPs who chose to resign from cabinet and that it would be difficult for a Prime Minister to keep a government in operation.

He referred to how some elected members had resigned from cabinet. This included PR 'Akilisi Pohiva, who resigned within days after his nomination and other PRs, whom Lord Nuku labeled as traitors, because after crossing the floor they voted in support of a motion for a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minster. For the PM to get a government working he could appoint unelected members into Cabinet.

Lord Nuku however asked for Dr. Sitiveni Halapua, the PR No. 3 for Tongatapu, and the former chairman of the initial national committee on reform, dubbed ‘the Prince Tu'ipelehake reform committee’ to give some background information on the feeling of the people when they consult them on the notion of a political reform, but more specifically on the proposal for the people to elect a Prime Minister from the 26 elected members of parliament.

Sitiveni said that the objective of their committee which was further confirmed by the desire of the people which was put to them in an oratory expression – toho pe 'a e vaka 'o saupulu kae 'oua 'e veteki – literally, "bring the boat ashore, and fix it, but don't dismantle it.

He said that that notion remained to be the guiding principle of their mission, to fix the system but not to break it up.

Dr. Halapua also pointed out that that out of three fundamental propositions that they put to government, only one was included in the political reform that was introduced at the end of 2010.

Their three propositions, of which second and third were rejected, were:

He said that the rejection of their proposal was because there was the idea for the Prime Minister to be accountable to the electorates, but not to enable the members of parliament to work together; accountability and unity became the issues.

Members somehow began to realize that that was why the House appeared to be running around in a circle, because while some members put so much emphasis on accountability to their electorates, others were banging their heads against the walls, trying to get the House to work together to build the country.

Debate on the Bill will continue tomorrow.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment