EARLY this month 32 of Tonga’s nobles met with one item on their agenda – Noble Ma’afu. This one member of the ruling class refused to stand with them and their nine elected members in a 26-member parliament to remove a commoner prime minister.
As part of their agreement, the Nobles decided to ostracise Ma’afu, not speak to him and promised they would not give him a ministerial position if they won a vote of no confidence against Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva.But Pohiva defeated the motion with Ma’afu – the Lands Minister – firmly by his side. As head of the Ha’a Havea Clan, this noble has 13 of the 33 Nobles in his family and is related to Pohiva’s father. Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, Pacific Director at Massey University in New Zealand, saw the no confidence motion as childish but understandable.
Prior to King George Tupou V’s constitutional change in 2010, the nobility controlled the legislature through its majority. But Tupou V allowed the nobles only nine seats and gave the commoners 17, a position for which Pohiva had campaigned for more than 30 years.
Until then, Tonga was a functioning constitutional monarchy with the king appointing the prime minister and cabinet. Parliament was a place where nobles and commoners could air their grievances and do little else. In 2014 Pohiva became prime minister after winning a place in parliament and then taking the votes of 15 of the elected MPs – including Ma’afu.
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