CEO Of Organizing Committee: Tonga Government Doesn't Have Right To Cancel Pacific Games

Games Council awaits confirmation of withdrawal; Samoa waiting in the wings eager to host

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 16, 2017) – The Tonga government does not have the right to cancel hosting the 2019 Pacific Games, said Lord Sevele, chairman and CEO of the 2019 Pacific Games Organising Committee. “It is a prerogative of the Tonga Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee TASANOC and the Pacific Games Council, not Government (Tongan Government),” he told Matangi Tonga today.

Lord Sevele is convinced that the Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva does not have the right to cancel Tonga’s hosting of the 2019 Pacific Games.

“He may withdraw government support, but it is up to us, the sporting bodies and patriotic Tongans who want to see these facilities for our children and the future of Tonga. If we don’t do it now we will never be able to do it!

“We owe it to our children and to Tonga. Sports facilities are no different from wharfs, airports, roads and schools.

“We have to stand up [and tell him] – come on if can’t do it move aside. Because the reason he has given doesn’t hold water’,” said Lord Sevele, who is a former Prime Minister of Tonga.

According to reports PM Pohiva in Auckland over the weekend announced that Tonga will not host the 2019 Pacific Games. He said that his decision to "cancel the games" was made after he read an updated IMF report.

[PIR editor's note: On May 16, 2017 RNZI reported that 'Tonga's Prime Minister concedes the move to belatedly withdraw from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games is not a good look for the country but it is necessary.']

Lord Sevele said that the PM presented an IMF 2013 report at an Annual General Meeting they had on 4 May, presumably the one he read; but all ADB and IMF reports that he had come across pointed out that the games can be very good for Tonga, “provided that we take care of the cost, and that we get a fair percentage of the funds to host the game from donors.“

"Of the two factors that the World Bank Report pointed out, one is the overall cost of running the games, which we have to counter by seeking aid donors. The other is to control the civil service salaries- that is what he [PM] should be concentrating on.

“It is now or never for us to get quality sports facilities. If we don’t do it now, we will never be able to do it.”

Lord Sevele estimated that the government contribution would be only 30% of the total cost. “China has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with government for $56 million. New Zealand has donated $3 million and Australia has also pledged $5 million pa’anga.”

When Tonga won the bid in 2012 to host the 2019 Pacific Games, it was estimated that it would cost Tonga USD$70 million to host the games.

[PIR editor's note: On May 17, 2017 Samoa Observer reported that 'onga’s decision to withdraw from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games is an opportunity for Samoa. ... That’s the opinion of the President of the Samoa Association of Sport and National Olympic Committee (S.A.S.N.O.C.), Fepulea’i Patrick Fepulea’i. ...  “I think from S.A.S.N.O.C.’s perspective, we’re happy to host and we have the ability to do so,” he told the Samoa Observer yesterday.']

Penalties

Tonga might be penalised by the Pacific Games Council for not honouring their commitment to host the 2019 Games.

“I think the Council can,” said Feleti, “but I don’t think they will. They will come over here and there will be a meeting. Their main concern will be, ‘how can we pull together and make it happen.’”

PM Pohiva made the announcement that Tonga was pulling out from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games when he was in Auckland, during the weekend, but there has been no official confirmation from the Prime Minister's Office in Nuku’alofa of the announcement.

Late this afternoon, media were told that they were working on official announcement to be released soon. The Prime Minister was enroute to Thailand.

[PIR editor's note: On May 16 Matangi Tonga reported that 'The Pacific Games Council is still waiting for the Tongan Government to confirm the cancellation of their hosting of the 2019 Pacific Games as stated by Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva during a radio interview in New Zealand two days ago.' ]

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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