Tonga PM ‘Declares’ Lord Vaea ‘Leader Of Opposition’

Questions raised as constitution does not allow for political parties in parliament

By Pesi Fonua

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, August 15, 2016) – Tonga’s eccentric Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva told Parliament today that he had declared Lord Vaea to be the leader of an “opposition party”, while he was on his first official visit to New Zealand from July 27-30.

The fact that under the Tongan Constitution the parliament is not made up of political parties appeared to be irrelevant when the Prime Minister reported this news to the first session of the House following the budget session.

PM Pohiva told parliament that he had written to the Speaker of the House, Lord Tu’ivakano and invited Lord Vaea, the No. 1 Noble’s Representative for Tongatapu to accompany him on his first official visit to New Zealand last month.

The PM said that it had been a common practice by New Zealand Prime Ministers that whenever they visited Tonga they brought along a member of the opposition party in New Zealand.

On the road

However, PM Pohiva told the House that he did not officially announce that Lord Vaea was the leader of Tonga’s opposition party until they got to Auckland.

PM Pohiva said that even though he himself had been unofficially referred to as the leader of Tonga’s opposition party, before he became a Prime Minister, he was never invited to accompany a Tongan delegation on any official visit to New Zealand.

Lord Tu’i’afitu, the No. 1 Nobles’ Representative for Vava’u reminded the Prime Minister that under the Tongan Constitution the composition of the Tongan parliament is not made up of political parties, and there is no opposition party in the Tongan Parliament.

Whether it is in the Constitution or not, but the Prime Minister was the leader of the unofficial former opposition party, the Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands (DPFI). A majority of the 26 members of parliament who were elected into parliament in the 2014 parliamentary election were affiliated to the DPFI. If there was no opposition after the DPFI members took over government in 2015, then it is obvious that the PM has just created another one, and Lord Vaea is the leader.

Vote of No Confidence

The issue of the possibility of a Vote of No Confidence on the Prime Minister and his Cabinet was raised because it had been discussed in the New Zealand media while the PM and Lord Vaea were in New Zealand.

Lord Vaea told House that he was questioned on a radio program about a Vote of No Confidence from the “opposition party” on the government and his response was that it can happen. “It is all open now, and it can take place at any time, but when, is another question.”

The issue of the leader of an opposition party that was announced by the Prime Minister, combined with the issue of a possible Vote of No Confidence, and when it might be tabled into the House, was all a bit too much of a distraction for members of the House today.

MPs were calling for the Chairman of the Whole House Committee to direct the House to go back to its working agenda.

On the agenda for the day were a Public Service (Amendment) Bill 2016 and Fisheries Management (Amendment) Bill 2016.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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