Petition Against Tonga’s Education Minister Presented To King

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Petition Against Tonga’s Education Minister Presented To King 900 signatures ask King to revoke appointment of Pohiva

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 20, 2015) – A letter of petition signed by over 900 people - calling on King Tupou VI to revoke the appointment of Tonga’s Minister of Education, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, was submitted to the King this morning, Tuesday 20 October 2015.

Former Minister of Education, Dr ‘Ana Taufe‘ulungaki, accompanied by a former CEO of Education, Dr Uiliami Fukofuka, and Lady ‘Eseta Fusitu‘a, led a small group of senior education officers, former teachers, former education officers and concerned parents to present the petition at the Palace Office in Nuku'alofa.

The group included former CEO of Education, ‘Emeli Pouvalu; the Director of the USP Tonga Campus, Dr ‘Ana Koloto; and Sione Tupouniua.

"We are asking that the appointment of the current Minister of Education and Training be revoked – so that he will focus on his Prime Minister role – and a new Minister of Education be elected so that they will continue to work together with the ministry to promote education in Tonga," said ‘Emeli.

The petition committee studied the process and believed the petition to the King is the shortest option.

Concerns

She said that the King has the authority to revoke the appointment of a Minister on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

"But the person we would like to revoke is also the Prime Minister. There is also a clause in the Constitution that talks about how the King can revoke the appointment of a minister on the grounds that he is ineligible for the role – so that’s the ground that we are standing on," she said

"There is evidence of not upholding the rule of law, process and procedures, nepotism, conflict of interests and other grievances from the staff that they are not confident with their place in the ministry," said Emily.

Their dissatisfaction came to a head in recent weeks when the staff of the Ministry were ready to walk out. "… A second option was to strike. This [petition] was the third option. So we thought we will take the third option in a peaceful way and submit our concern to the King."

She said it would have been critical if they submitted it to the Parliament because the two who are being petitioned (Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva and also Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu) are in parliament.

"It is constitutional to submit it to the King or the Parliament," she said. "I believe that the King is more genuine in his concern to the people of his country, and I think he has no political bias, so to us the true judgment of the condition is expected of him."

Prime Minister

‘Emeli said the Prime Minister was not listening. "From my own experience he has not been listening to anybody. … I tried to outline some things that we have planned from the past and explain how it should be rolled on, but he brings his own agenda. Some of us are sad to see that.

"We also believe that if he remains in his portfolio as Prime Minister that would be enough for him."

Many of the people who supported the petition are working in the Ministry. ‘Emeli said they changed plans to march to the Palace, and instead decided to just hand in the petition, "because most of them are still a bit scared with the whole condition and the situation."

"This is a genuine concern for education in Tonga and there’s no personal touch to it. I am encouraged to stand in and see that things are ready to move on with education in Tonga," ‘Emeli said.

Senior Assistant Secretary at Palace Office, Suka ‘Otukolo, who received the petition at the Palace Office confirmed that it had been handed over to the Lord Chamberlain for further action.

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