Tonga Speaker Gives Up Right To Appoint Committee Chairman

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Lord Tu‘ivakan’;s proposal for Ministers to head committees rejected

By Pesi Fonua

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 25, 2015) – The surrender by the Speaker, Lord Tu’ivakano of his right to appoint the chairmen of the eight Parliamentary Standing Committees, and the approval by the House of Semisi Sika to be the Chairman of the Whole House Committee, were two controversial decisions that parliament approved in its first formal session of the Tongan Legislative Assembly on Thursday, 22 January.

Semisi Sika, People’s Representative for Tongatapu No. 2, has not attended parliament because of ill health. He was not sworn in when members took their oath on 19 January, and he was not in the House to accept his appointment when he was nominated by Veivosa Taka to become the new Chairman of the Whole House Committee.

Semisi was the sole nomination for the position and it was approved by the House in his absence, though the Speaker commented, "…hopefully he will not get more ill when he hears that he has been made the Chairman of the Whole House Committee."

Standing Committees

The Speaker presented his list of the Chairmen and the Members of the Standing Committees. Lord Tu’ivakano elaborated why he thought it was essential for Cabinet Ministers to chair these committees.

Lord Vaea, however, with the support of the Minister of Police, Hon. Pohiva Tu’I’onetoa disagreed, arguing that having Cabinet Ministers as a Chairmen of committees meant that, undoubtedly, committees would be in support of government decisions.

There were no further discussions as the Speaker surrendered his right to appoint the Chairmen of Standing Committees, leaving it for members of the committees to select their own chairmen.

So when the House closed on Thursday, 22 January uncertainty remained over the new Chairman of the Whole House Committee and the chairmen of the eight Standing Committees.

Parliament’s Retirement Fund Board

However, the House managed to form the Parliament’s Retirement Fund Board, chaired by Hon. ‘Aisake Eke, the Minister of Finance, with members Hon. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, Lord Fusitu’a, Lord Tu’iha’angana, Mateni Tapueluelu and Vili Hingano.

Speaker’s List

The Speaker’s original list of the Tonga Parliament’s eight Standing Committees was

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