Tonga Prime Minister Reshuffles Cabinet

Pohiva awaits consent of King Tupou VI

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, March 7, 2017) – The Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva at mid-day today announced a new reshuffled cabinet, which has yet to receive the official consent of King Tupou VI.

He named the new Minister of Finance and National Planning as Hon. Tevita Lavemaau, the former Minister of Revenue Collection and Customs.

Mateni Tapueluelu, the People’s Representative for Tongatapu Constituent No. 4  is a new recruit to the 12-members Cabinet.

Mateni becomes the new Minister of Police and Fire Services. This ministry used to be the Ministry of Police, Prisons and Fire Services but under this new line-up, Mateni Tapueluelu will only be the Minister of Police and Fire Services.

The Prisons will come under the Minister of Justice, Hon. Sione Vuna Fa’otusia, who is the current Minister of Justice.

The former Minister of Police, Hon. Pohiva Tu’I’onetoa will maintain his portfolio as the Minister of Labour, Commerce, Industries and Trade; he will also become the new Minister of Revenue Collection and Customs.

Under this new Cabinet line-up, the Prime Minister who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs and Sports will drop his Foreign Affairs portfolio.

The Foreign Affairs portfolio will come under the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni, who will be the Minister for Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change, Communications and Foreign Affairs.

The Prime MInister since he was elected at the end of 2014 has reshuffled his cabinet a number of times.

No appointments

The reformed Tongan system also allows a Prime Minister to appoint four ministers from outside.

So the question remains why hasn’t he nominated Cabinet Ministers who were not elected members of parliament to take on important portfolios?

At today's press conference Prime Minister appeared to be not very keen on the idea of nominating an unelected member of parliament as a cabinet minister.

Had to go

But what was the real reason that he fired his former Minister of Finance Hon Dr ‘Aisake Eke, taking into consideration that the Motion for the Vote of No Confidence in him was knocked out, and 'Aisake's abstaining from voting did not have any impact on the outcome?

The PM said that ‘Aisake was not a member his party, the Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands DPFI. In answering the question, the way the PM moved his hands and his eyes indicated that ‘Eke was floating around within his Cabinet. To make sure that the PM remained in control of his Cabinet, he decided that the Minister of Finance and National Planning had to go.

The Cabinet of the Prime Minister following the election in 2014 was made up of six members of the DPFI and six Independent Members. The number of Independent Members in Cabinet dropped to four in 2016 and now there are only three, including one Noble's Representative.

With regards to his letter and his demand on ‘Eke to resign on a Sunday, the PM was asked if he was aware that it is illegal to make agreements on a Sunday.

The Prime Minister admitted that he "did not check on it."

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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