Tonga Speaker Calms Down Parlimentary Shouting Match Between PM, Lord Tu‘i‘afitu

Regular business pushed aside during uproar

By Pesi Fonua

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, June 20, 2017) – During an uproar in Tonga's Parliament yesterday morning, June 19, a noble's representative told the Prime Minister that he "should get his act together". The Speaker, Lord Tu'ivakano had to raise his voice to get the Prime Minister to sit down and calm down.

The uproar was sparked off with a comment by Lord Tu'i'afitu that he thought it was most inappropriate for the Prime Minister Hon. 'Akilisi Pohiva to announce his personal desire for more political reform in Tonga during a Press Conference with the New Zealand Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Bill English last Friday at the Fa'onelua Convention Centre.

The New Zealand Prime Minister was on a Pacific tour, visiting the Cook Islands, Niue and Tonga, and Lord Tu'i'afitu was fully convinced that 'Akilisi should have “kept local politics, local.”  

The PM responded to Lord Tu'i'afitu's advice by reminding him that he had been in parliament during the last 31 years, and people kept electing him as their representative. “Go and talk to the people who elected me,” he said.

Lord Tu'ilakepa told the PM that Lord Tu'i'afitu was referring to a completely different issue, not how long he had been in parliament. The PM was raising an issue, which was irrelevant.

Lord Tu'i'afitu went on and told the House that he saw on the TVNZ's 1 news, a woman journalist had referred to the Tongan PM as being unstable, and that he should get his act together.

The PM reminded the House that, “Tonga is a Sovereign State, in a transitional state with more reforms to take place. The 25% productivity of civil servants, is very low.”  

Lord Tu'ilakepa responded that the low productivity rate of government “is your responsibility!”

The exchange became a screaming match, and the only voice that could be clearly heard was that of the Speaker telling members to sit down and behave themselves.

The Speaker, Lord Tu'ivakano even had to raise his voice to get the Prime Minister to calm down. He reminded that they went to church the day before, and they should remember the Ten Commandments. “Talk peace!”

Pacific Games

Getting back to the agenda of the House for the day, which was the response from government to a Motion for Parliament to order government to go ahead with Tonga's hosting of the 2019 Pacific Games. A response from the government had been read by the clerk.

Lord Nuku queried the figure of $3.9 million that was stated in the report as the amount that had been paid out as the salaries of the staff of the Organising Committee. Lord Nuku said that the real figure was only $1.24 million.

Debate on the Response from Government was then lowered from the Legislature to the Whole House Committee.

The Chairman of the Whole House Committee, Hon. Light of Day Taka took his chair. He reminded members that the House had to pass the National Budget in 10 days time.

Hon. Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa, the Minister of Labour, Commerce, Tourism, Trade and Revenue Collection corrected Lord Nuku's figure of $1.24 million and said that the latest figure that they have got from the Ministry of Finance was $3.21 million.

'Aisake Eke, the former Minister of Finance explained that the $3.2 million was the working budget for three committees, the Organising Committee, the Audit Committee and the Facility Committee.

“Why lie to the House?” asked Samiu Vaipulu, referring to the claim that the $3.9 million was only for the salaries of the employees of the Organising Committee.

The PM then made some analysis of the National Budget that had been presented to the House.

Funds and Games

It became clear during the debate that the budget was prepared when 'Aisake Eke was still the Minister of Finance, and it had not been changed because incentives to collect funds for the Pacific Games were still in place.

'Aisake pointed out to the PM that the figures in the budget are correct, but that his interpretation was wrong.

The debate over the Motion and the response from government, went on but what remained to be clarified, was if government had cancelled Tonga's hosting of the 2019 Pacific Games, then why was it still in the budget for government to collect revenue for the games?

In addition there are legislations that are still in place.

Swamp golf course

Vili Hingano one of the two members who tabled the Motion, pointed out the contradictory view of government that they wanted to withdraw from hosting the game because of a lack of funds, but at the same time they are building a 18-holes golf course in a swamp, which will definitely cost a lot of money.

At the end the Speaker called for a break for the day.

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

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