Tongan Cardinal Says Religious Leaders Should Stay Out Of Politics

Cardinal Mafi, political leaders take part in National Dialogue on Democracy, Leadership 

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 5, 2017) – Cardinal Mafi of Tonga this week has emphasized that religious leaders should not get involved in politics. He was speaking at a a National Dialogue to ‘Identify Leadership Contribution to Tonga’s Journey to a Democratic Society.’

He referred to the late 20th century when the involvement of religions in Tongan politics happened at a time when Tonga was surging for a more democratic system of government. He justified the involvement of church leaders in politics at the time, by saying that once Tonga’s initial surge for an idealized system of government was on the roll they had stepped back, allowing the momentum of the surge to carry it forward.

The Cardinal was one of three keynote speakers who were scheduled to speak at the opening session of the National Dialogue hosted by the Tonga National Leadership Development Forum at the Epworth Hall, Nuku'alofa, on Tuesday 3 October.

Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, became the Bishop of the Diocese of Tonga and Niue in 2008, and was made a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church on 14 February 2015.

Cardinal Mafi further emphasised why religious leaders should not get involved in politics by reminding the Dialogue of an occasion when one of the disciples asked Jesus a political question. Jesus responded by asking for a coin, and on the coin was the image of Caesar, and from that came the saying “Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”

Lord Vaea

The Speaker of Parliament, Lord Tu’ivakano who was away overseas could not speak at the Dialogue, so he was replaced by Lord Vaea, who is one of the three Tongatapu Nobles’ Representatives to the Tongan parliament. Lord Vaae was a Cabinet Minister under Lord Tu’ivakano’s first elected government.

Lord Vaea expressed his concern with what he claimed to be a domination of the proceedings in parliament by the fact that Tongatapu has 10 People Representatives, while the outer islands groups have only seven. (Ha’apai 2, Vava’u 3, Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou 1; and ‘Eua 1).

He claimed that because Tongatapu have more PRs in the House, Tongatapu’s economic development was moving well ahead of the outer islands. He also believed that because the economy in Tongatapu is more vibrant than in the outer islands, there is a massive internal migration from the islands to Tongatapu.

On a different issue Lord Vaea questioned why the Prime Minister had dismissed five ministers from his Cabinet during the past three years.

Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva

The other keynote speaker, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, Prime Minister of the caretaker government apologised that the allocated 10 minutes for him to speak was too short, so he would not go on and answer some of Lord Vaea queries. He wanted to correct Lord Vaea that it was the king who approved the dismissal of his four Cabinet Minister and “not me”.

One of the five Cabinet Ministers who were dismissed from Cabinet lost his parliamentary seat because of a court decision.

‘Akilisi then lectured on a historical journey which began in 1975, when Dr Langi Kavaliku, Tonga’s Minister of Education presented a paper to Cabinet proposing a political reform to make Tonga’s system of government more democratic. He believed that a proposal for political reform  was presented to Cabinet a number of times but rejected.

So when he returned to Tonga from his overseas study, he told his friends he would pick up Dr Kavaliku’s proposal and run with it.

‘Akilisi, a teacher returned and worked with the Ministry of Education until he was fired from the Ministry. Ironically, Dr Langi Kavaliku was the Minister of Education at the time.

'Akilisi later got into politics and became a member of parliament. He said that during the 31 years he was a member of parliament, he had spent a lot of time and money in court. He said that at one time he had to pay a fine of $95,000 so that he could stand for election.

He said that four days ago, his daughter, the publisher of a newspaper that he started, the Kele’a, told him that they have to pay a fine of $100,000.

‘Akilisi’s son-in-law, Mateni Tapueluelu, a former editor of the Kele’a is now the Minister of Police.

One of his most memorable court cases was when it was reported in an international newspaper that he referred to the King of Tonga as a dictator. He said that at the end of the hearing he was set free, because it is the Tongan Constitution that is dictatorial, “but not the King.”

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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