Petition Calls For Dismissal Of Tonga’s Education Ministers

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PM, Acting Minister accused of nepotism, doing damage to ministry

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 13, 2015) – A petition calling for the dismissal of Tonga’s Minister of Education, the Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, and the Acting Minister of Education, Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu, will be presented to HM King Tupou VI on Wednesday, 21 October, former Education CEO, ‘Emeli Pouvalu, announced this week, amid growing anxiety over conflicts of interest and clashes within the ministry.

After calling a press conference on Monday October 12, ‘Emeli said that a group including teachers and others had written a proposal calling for the dismissal of the Minister of Education. They want to replace him with someone who could manage education, "because there has been too much damage to the law and the policies of the Ministry Education. Conflict of Interest and nepotism have become the normal way of running the ministry," she claimed. Their proposal is part of a petition that is currently gathering signatures. Appendixes to the petition list all the grievances and the legal responses to them.

She said that staff of the Ministry had also become wary of doing things because they were scared of angering the Minister who would punish them.

'Emeli was also critical of the Acting Minister of Education, Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu who is also the Minister of Infrastructure and Tourism. ‘Emeli claimed he had done a lot of damage to the Ministry during the very short time he was acting in Education, while the Prime Minister was away in New York to address the United National General Assembly on 29 September.

‘Emeli claimed that both ministers had abused their position with conflicts of Interest, nepotism, and by breaking the laws and the regulation of the Ministry. She said the petitioners had evidence to support their claims.

‘Emeli is the former Director and Chief Executive Officer of Tonga’s Ministry of Education, who ended her term this year. Together with the former Minister of Education Dr ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki, during the past 12 years she has been developing Tonga’s current education system. She said that they had laid the foundation and completed the restructuring of Forms 2, 3, and 4, and they were just about to start on Forms 4, 5 and 6. However, Dr ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki lost her seat in Parliament following the 2014 election.

She said that since Hon. ‘Akilisi and his new government came into power, there had been a move to restructure Tonga’s education system.

But she warned that to change an education system, it would take at least 10 years to be properly implemented.


‘Emeli told the media yesterday about a breakdown in the relationship between herself and Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who had become the new Minister of Education. She was suddenly called by the Minister and told to go on leave. She said she told him that she would go on leave if he would give her a few minutes for a talk.

‘Emeli said that during their brief talk, she reminded ‘Akilisi that one of the responsibilities of a CEO is to advise the Minister. He then told ‘Emeli to return to work, "but after that our working relationship was damaged. "He did not trust me and I did not trust him."

‘Emeli’s contract came to an end a few weeks ago, and she has reapplied for the Ministry of Education CEO position and was still waiting. She said that another person who had been told that he had got the job was complaining because his appointment had not been endorsed. Meanwhile, she had complained to the Attorney General for the government recruitment procedure to be followed and a tribunal was still trying to figure out what to do.


Two weeks ago a group of people from the Ministry of Education visited ‘Emeli’s home and expressed their frustration over how the ministry had been operating under the leadership of the Prime Minister. She said that the three options that were presented by the group were:

‘Emeli said that after a few tears were shed and some soul searching they decided to take a break and cool down before they made up their minds on what to do.

She said that to either walk out or to go on strike at this point of time, while primary, secondary and high school students are ready to set their end of the year exams, would be disastrous and that was why they settled with the idea to petition the King.

Tonga School Certificate examinations for Form Five and Six students will start on 3 November, and the Tonga National Form Seven Certificate examination will start on 4 November.

'Emeli pointed out that under the Constitution they could petition either the King or Parliament. She said that to petition parliament where the Minister of Education and the Acting Minister of Education are members was an unnecessary complicating of the situation, and that was why they decided to petition the King.


One of the most controversial issues embroiling the new Minister of Education is his claim of a flaw in the Ministry of Education examination computer programs. He has proposed to replace the system with a new examination program to be provided by a friend of the Prime Minister, and a working partner of one of his sons.

The threat of introducing this new examination computer program as this point of time, according to ‘Emeli is disastrous - "it could mean that no universities overseas will accept the results of Tonga’s Form 7 students’ final year examination results."

‘Emeli stressed that a change in the examination system could be introduced, as the Minister desired, "but definitely not at this point of time".

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