Tonga Parliament Decides Not To Impeach Infrastructure Minister

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Arguments in Parliament lead to tears, hurling of abuse

By Pesi Fonua

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 22, 2015) – Tonga's Parliament before breaking for lunch today, 22 October decided not to impeach the Minister of Infrastructure Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu, voting 9-12 against the findings of a Standing Committee on Privileges that found there was a prima facie case to impeach him.

Against the finding of the committee, that "there is a prima face case" to impeach the Minister were:

Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva Minister of Justice Hon. Sione Vuna Fa’otusia Minister of Finance Hon. ‘Aisake Eke Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Hon. Semisi Fakahau Minister of Revenue Collection Hon. Tevita Lavemaau Minister of Land Hon. Ma’afu Tukui’aulahi Minister of Internal Affairs Hon. Fe’ao Fakata Minister of Public Enterprises Hon. Poasi Mataele Tei Tongatapu No. 4 People Representative PR Mateni Tapueluelu Tongatapu No. 9 PR Penisimani ‘Epinisa Fifita Tongatapu No. 2 PR Semisi Sika Ha’apai No. 12 Veivosa Taka

For the finding of the Committee were:

Lord Tu’ilakepa Lord Tu’iha’ateiho Lord Nuku Lord Tu’iha’angana Lord Vaea Lord Tu’i’afitu Lord Fusitu’a Samiu Vaipulu Vili Manuopangai Hingano.

The members of the Standing Committee are: Lord Fusitu’a, the chairman; the Minister of Justice, Hon. Vuna Fa’otusia; the Minister of Finance ‘Aisake Eke; the Speaker of the House, Lord Tu’ivakano; Lord Tu’iha’angana and a People’s Representive, Mateni Tapueluelu.

It took the House nearly two-hours this morning to decide what to do with the finding of its Standing Committee on Privileges, that established a Prima facie case of Impeachment.

Shedding tears and raising angry voices, members threw abuse at each other.

The Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, and the Minister of Finance, Hon. ‘Aisake Eke voiced their approval that there is a case for Lavulavu to answer.

But Hon. Lavulavu shed a few tears, pleaded guilty and asked for forgiveness.

The Prime Minister suggested for the House to let him deal with his Minister, alluding that he would suggest to King Tupou VI to dismiss the Minister.

Lord Tu’iha’angana expressed his concern that such a move would simply mean that the member would lose his seat in Cabinet but he would still keep his seat in the House.

The Speaker of the House believed that the PM’s decision was something that he should do in Cabinet, but the House still had the responsibility to deal with the Petition to Impeach the Cabinet Minister. A final decision had to be made by the House base on the findings of its Standing Committee of Privileges.

The other issue was the Hon. Lavulavu had a copy of his response to the accusations that had been levelled at him. It was his third attempt to forestall the impeachment process. His two first reports were discarded by the committee.

So the three options that were presented to the House were:

The final decision by the Speaker was for the House to vote on whether to accept the finding of the Committee and Impeach Hon. Lavulavu or not.

The outcome was that Lavulavu walked free.

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