Tonga Prime Minister Survives Vote Of No-Confidence

Pohiva lambasts Parliament saying the House did not have the authority to remove him

By Pesi Fonua

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Feb. 27, 2017) – Tonga's Prime Minister Hon. 'Akilisi Pohiva told parliament today that the House was "trespassing on authority" in their attempts to dismiss him. The Tongan Parliament rejected the Motion for a Vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister Hon. 'Akilisi Pohiva with votes of 14-10 this afternoon, Monday 27 February.  All members of parliament were present today, except for a time when the PM and four Cabinet Ministers left the House for an audience with the King.

Against the Motion

Against the motion were 11 Cabinet Ministers and three People’s Representatives.

The 11 Cabinet Ministers against the motion were:

  • Hon. ‘Akilsi Pohiva,
  • Lord Ma'afu,
  • Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni,
  • Hon. Semisi Fakahau,
  • Hon. Saia Piukala,
  • Hon. Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa,
  • Hon. Poasi Tei,
  • Hon. Penisimani Fifita,
  •  Hon. Vuna Fa'otusia,
  • Hon. Tevita Lavemaau
  • Hon. Semisi Sika.

The three People’s Representatives against the motion were:

  • Mateni Tapueluelu,
  • Veivosa Light of Day Taka
  • ‘Akosita Lavulavu.

For the Motion

For the Motion were seven Nobles’ Representatives and three People’s Representatives.

The Nobles’ Representatives in favour of the motion were;

  •  Lord Tu'ilakepa,
  • Lord Nuku,
  • Lord Tu'i'afitu,
  • Lord Tu’iha’ateiho,
  • Lord Tu'iha'angana,
  • Lord Fusitu'a
  • Lord Vaea.

The three People’s Representatives in favour of the motion were:

  • Fe'ao Vakata,
  • Samiu Vaipulu
  • Vili Hingano.

Abstained

One Cabinet Minister abstained from voting, Hon. 'Aisake Eke.

The Speaker Lord Tu'ivakano did not vote, because he has only a casting vote in case of a draw.

Today was the fifth and final day that was designated for the House to deliberate over the Motion for a Vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister.

[PIR editor's note: On Feb. 28, 2017 RNZI reported that 'A Tongan academic has welcomed the way a vote of no confidence against 'Akilisi Pohiva was handled by MPs yesterday. ... The first, more than four years ago, brought the country to a near standstill for weeks, but the Royal Oceania Institute's director of research, Tevita Motulalo, said this time around the process was far less disruptive. ... "We managed to have this done in the span of a week and then decision making. It is a lot less disruptive and then both sides congratulated the other in the spirit of working together and working for the country," he said.']

The first opportunity was given to Lord Tu'ilakepa who presented the Motion to the Speaker of the House, Lord Tu'ivakano on 2 February.

Most unusual with today’s proceeding was that the Prime Minister and four Cabinet Ministers were not present in the House while Lord Tu'ilakepa made his presentation.

He ridiculed a letter that accompanied the PM’s Response to the Motion. He referred to it as a colourful solo dancing performance. The letter was a colourful presentation by the PM of what he claimed his government had achieved since they came into power at the end of 2014.

He said the response was not appropriate considering that the House was trying to deal with a very serious allegation, a Vote of No Confidence.

The House voted in favour for the introductory letter to be read before the response from the PM to the motion was read on Friday, 4 February.

Lord Tu'ilakepa stressed that the PM had lied to the House, he had infringed the Constitution and he concluded that the PM is a Bad Leader.

Again, unfortunately the PM was not present to hear what Lord Tu'ilakepa said about him.

King

After lunch, the PM told the House that he was away with four Cabinet Ministers to meet the King. He said that originally a meeting with the King was scheduled for 11 am, then it was postponed to 5pm, then they rang and said it was 11 am.

He asked the Speaker to give him two minutes to answer allegations in support of the Motion for a Vote of No Confidence.

He said the question is "who has the authority to dismiss a Prime Minister?"

The PM offered four options.

First is that the Prime Minister should dismiss himself. He said that that would be the most civilized way to dismiss a Prime Minister.

Secondly, the Cabinet Ministers who voted for him to be a Prime Minister, should have the right to dismiss him.

Thirdly, the voters who voted for him during the ten parliamentary elections when he was elected to parliament.

The fourth person is HM the King who has the power to dissolve parliament.

"You are trespassing these four circles of authorities in your effort to fire me.

“The country is wounded in what is happening.

“That is my assessment – only four authorities have the power, and you are trespassing among these four circles,” declared the Prime Minister.

He reminded the Nobles that one of his remaining desires is for Nobles’ Representatives to the Tongan parliament to be elected by the people.

Constitution

Samiu Vaipulu reminded the Prime Minister that the motion is in accordance with Clause 50B of the Constitution.

If the Legislative Assembly passes a motion described as a “Vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister” in accordance with this clause, then upon delivery of that resolution to the King by the Speaker, the Prime Minister and all Ministers shall be deemed to have resigned and their appointments revoked.

Samiu stressed that it was not for the PM himself alone to decide if he should resign or not “[that] is illegal, and the Constitution spelled out it is the responsibility of Parliament.”

Lord Fusitu'a also stressed that the PM’s idea of four options of how he should resign “are unethical, and an infringement of the law and the Constitution.”

The Speaker, Lord Tu'ivakano called for votes on the Motion for a vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister, and it was rejected 14-10.

The Minister of Finance, 'Aisake Eke was present and abstained from voting.

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

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