Prime Minister Says Tonga Will Not Host 2019 Pacific Games

Questions raised by Chairman of Organizing Committee; former Finance Minister

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 15, 2017) – Tonga's Prime Minister Hon ‘Akilisi Pohiva has, in an abrupt turnaround, said in a radio interview today that Tonga will not now host the Pacific Games 2019. His statement comes just days after confirming last week that the games were on.

The Prime MInister, who was in Auckland, told Katalina Tohi of Broadcom 87.5 FM (Nuku'alofa) that Tonga's hosting of the games was cancelled.

Meanwhile, an official from the Prime Minister’s office today confirmed that Cabinet had not made any official statement regarding the cancellation, as they "have no knowledge of it".

On Thursday May 11, when the PM held a press conference at Popua he had confirmed Tonga’s hosting of the Games.

Concerns

However, concerns over the Games were raised on Friday, May 12 by Lord Sevele, the Chairman of the Pacific Games Organizing Committee.

He told media that the PM who took over the chairmanship of the governing committee for the Games, the Audit and Governance Authority, and the Government Facilities Committee, had called for an emergency meeting with them the week before, raising his doubts on Tonga's hosting.

"We were surprised that he was questioning whether we would host the Games or not during this emergency meeting because we were of the understanding from parliament and government, that the sports would be on and Tonga would be able to host it."

[PIR editor's note: On May 16, 2017 RNZI reported that 'The head of Tonga's Pacific Games Organising Committee says the economy can handle hosting the 2019 event and he doesn't understand why the government wants to pull out. ... He cited an International Monetary Fund statement which said economic activity is expanding and likely to remain relatively strong with growth projected at a rate between 3 and 4 percent, boosted by construction and activities related to the Pacific Games.']

He said unfortunately at this meeting these were the new things that came from the PM.

"We have concerns regarding this because at the moment we only have two-years and about a month before the games and the status of the preparation is unsatisfactory. We asked to host the Games in 2012, and now it's 2017 the and works on the sporting venues and facilites have not been carried out," he said.

Lord Sevele said since the PM took over the committees in December 2015, he cancelled the construction works for Teufaiva Stadium which they had anticipated to have finished in March this year. “Now we have lost the chance to host the rugby test match with Wales.”

"After the meeting, I told him to confirm whether we are going ahead with the hosting of the sports and if not then leave it," he said.

"There is a penalty for Tonga, if we back out from hosting the Games - we would forthwith loose any opportunities to host the Pacific Games in the future."

[PIR editor's note: On May 16, 2017 RNZI reported that 'Tonga's former Minister of Finance ‘Aisake Eke says the government needs to provide more information about why they are withdrawing from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games.  … Aisake Eke said the withdrawal might also be down to a personality clash. … There has been an ongoing feud between prime minister 'Akilisi Pohiva and organising committee chair Lord Sevele which culminated in the latter being reinstated by the courts after Mr Pohiva removed him.']

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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