Motion Of No-Confidence Against Tonga Prime Minister Tabled In Parliament

Pohiva accused of Incompetent Leadership; Being Unsuitable to be PM; Abusing of his Authority, Privileges; Damaging Foreign Relations

By Pesi Fonua

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Feb. 21, 2017) – A motion for a Vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva was read in the Tongan Parliament this morning, 20 February.

After the reading of the Motion the Prime Minister told the House that he would present his response either later this evening or tomorrow morning and he was optimistic that they should be able to make a decision by Wednesday, 22 February.

The motion was tabled to the Tongan Parliament by Lord Tu’iha’angana, the Chairman of the House’s Standing Committee of Privileges.

The motion had been earlier presented to the Speaker of the House, Lord Tu’ivakano on 2 February, signed by 10 members, including seven Nobles’ Representatives and three People's Representatives.

The seven nobles were, Lord Tu’ilakepa, Lord Nuku, Lord Tu’iha’ateiho, Lord Vaea, Lord Tu’iha’angana, Lord Tu’i’afitu and Lord Fusitu’a. The three People’s Repswere, Samiu Kuita Vaipulu, Vili Manuopangai Hingano and Sosefo Fe’aomoeata Vakata.

The process was for the Motion to be scrutinised by the Standing Committee of Privileges before it is tabled into Parliament.

Claims in support of the Motion for a Vote of No Confidence in Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva were outlined under four headlines:

  1. Incompetent Leadership
  2. Unsuitable to be a Prime Minister
  3. Abuse of his Authority and Privileges
  4. Damage Tonga’s Foreign Relations.

1. Incompetent Leadership

The Prime Minister was accused of nepotism by hiring his son Po’oi as his personal assistant, and though the PM claimed that he was personally paying the salary of his PA, but the travel allowances of the PA is paid for by government. [It was also revealed in the 2015 Annual Report of the Prime MInister's Office that Po’oi received a salary as the Secretary to the PM].

The Prime Minister is blamed for putting people into government positions without going through due process.

Dr Palenitina Langa’oi as Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet was one who was identified. Dr Palenitina was originally the CEO for the Public Service Commission PSC, then moved up to be Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet despite letters of complaints to the PSC over her selection.

The reallocating of one of the Prime Minister's personal advisers, Viliami Taufa to the livestock division of the Ministry of Agriculture. Viliami had shifted to the Ministry of Agriculture but he is still using the PM Office's vehicle.

The appointment of ‘Anisi Bloomfield as the CEO for the Ministry of Revenue Collection and Customs again did not follow due process, and it came amid controversy over why he was not rehired by the Forum Secretariat.

The hiring of the Deputy Secretary at the PM Office, ‘Eti Teumohenga, who was sacked from the Ministry of Lands was another issue.

The Prime Minister, however, was reported to have said that Cabinet has the final say in the appointment of government staff.

2. Unsuitable to be a Prime Minister

There is a claim that an attempt by the PM to remove the Attorney General from office was illegal.

 An attempt  by the PM to remove Lord Sevele the CEO of the Organising Committee of the 2019 Pacific Games was declared illegal by the Supreme Court.

An attempt by the PM to influence the board of directors of the Tonga Broadcasting Commission to dismiss one of its presenters was considered disgraceful.

3. Abuse of Government Privileges

There is a claim that the PM abused Government Prvileges when he allowed ‘Etuate Lavulavu one of his former Cabinet Ministers to continue to occupy the National Cultural Centre in 2015 after the Court ordered Lavulavu to leave the centre on 31 October 2014.

It is also asserted that the payment of $250,000 for the Forbes Magazine to publish an interview of the PM was big mistake and a waste of money.

The PM is also accused of wasting government money to buy old and damaged construction equipment from Tommy Fa, a local businessman.

The PM is also accused of spending government money to build the Popua Park without an environmental impact assessment.

The decision by government to sign the international CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) and then later trying to withdraw its signatory was an embarrassment.

4. Damage to Foreign Relations

The move by the PM to support the struggle by West Papua for freedom from Indonesia is straining the long standing relationship between Tonga and Indonesia.

The House is expected to continue with debate on the motion until 22 February.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
Copyright © 2017 Matangi Tonga. All Rights Reserved

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