Tongan Government Decision To Withdraw From Pacific Games Leads To Adjournment Of Parliament

PM, Cabinet needs to time to respond to Motion telling government to continue as host 

By Pesi Fonua

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, June 13, 2017) – Tonga's parliament has adjourned for two days, until Thursday, 15 June to give the Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva time to respond to a "Motion for an Order for Parliament to tell the Tongan Government to Host the 2019 Pacific Games."

The Motion, tabled by Lord Nuku and Vili Manuopangai Hingano, the People’s Representative No. 12 for Ha’apai, was a reaction to an "out of context decision" by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet for Tonga to withdraw from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games.

The recent declaration by the PM Pohiva that Tonga will not host the 2019 Pacific Games, made without following due diligence, stirred some vociferous exchanges in the Tongan parliament yesterday, 12 June.

Top on the agenda of the House yesterday was the National Budget 2017-18. The Budget Bill was carried after its first reading with votes of 17-3, but before it has its second reading, Lord Nuku called for the PM to clarify the government's decision for Tonga to withdraw from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games.

Meanwhile, government incentives to collect revenue for Tonga to host the 2019 Pacific Games remain in the 2017-18 National Budget.

The Speaker, Lord Tu’ivakano, who was the Prime Minister at the time when the Tongan Government signed the 2019 Pacific Games Host Contract in 2013, reminded members that they had not heard from the Executive (Cabinet) about their decision for Tonga to withdraw from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games.

“PM what is happening?” he asked.

PM Pohiva told Parliament that a letter had been drafted, outlining the Cabinet decision to cancel Tonga government’s agreeing to host the 2019 Pacific Games. He said that even if TASANOC and the Pacific Games Council disagreed, his Cabinet would stand fast in its decision, “No 2019 Pacific Games in Tonga”.

Basically, what the PM was saying was that Cabinet, the Tongan Government had written a letter, trying to negotiate with the two other parties to the 2019 Pacific Games Host Contract to cancel it. The three parties signing the 2019 Pacific Games Host Contract on 19 October 2012 were the Pacific Games Council, Tonga Pacific Games Association and the Government of Tonga.

Negotiations

It is widely believed that negotiating to cancel Tonga’s hosting of the 2019 Pacific Games was something that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet should have done before they publicly announced that the Tongan government had cancelled its offer to host the 2019 Pacific Games.

Tonga might still have to pay for the games. The President of the Pacific Games Council told the Tongan Media on June 7 that if by the end of June the Prime Minister and his Cabinet are still insisting that Tonga will not host the 2019 Pacific Games, that under the Host Contract Tonga will underwrite the cost of the 2019 Games. “So if we go to Samoa, you [Tonga[ will still pay for the games.”

Pacific Games Organisation Act 2013

In addition to the Tongan government’s attempt to repeal the 2019 Pacific Games Host Contract government, it has also tabled a Bill to the House to amend and repeal the Pacific Games Organisation Act 2013.

It became evident to the House that government had jumped the gun.

The motion that was tabled by Lord Nuku and Vili Manuopangai Hingano was for Parliament to order Government for Tonga to host the 2019 Pacific Games. Lord Nuku and Vili Hingano supported their motion with 23 clauses which they moved for the House to debate, together with the 2017-18 National Budget.

The Speaker adjourned the session to give the Prime Minister and Cabinet two days to respond to the Motion.

The Tongan Parliament will reconvene on Thursday, 15 June.

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

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