Jun 17, 2018 Last Updated 6:23 AM, Jun 15, 2018

Pohiva storms back

Tongan Parliament votes

VETERAN politician and long-time democracy fighter Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva has his job cut out for him after he was re-elected as Tonga’s Prime Minister with a 14-12 vote in the Tongan Parliament in Nuku’alofa on December 18.

Pohiva was re-elected as Tonga’s PM over his former deputy and the only other nominee for the top post, Siaosi Sovaleni. Following a day-long election process, acting Speaker of the House Lord Tangi announced the secret ballot results, after his briefing with His Majesty King Tupou VI.

“I thank all of you for the important job that you have been able to carry out today,” Lord Tangi told the members of parliament. “You have made your selection and we will now have to go on with that.” In his acceptance speech Pohiva...

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TO say that Tonga has soared up the Rugby League International Federation (RFIL) rankings list after a stunning World Cup run is an understatement to the manner in which it achieved the feat. The South Sea islanders brought the tournament to life even before it began and overshadowed Australia’s gallant defence of the crown against England with a hardfought 6-0 victory. The Mate Ma’a’s dream run ended at the top four but they will forever be remembered as the story of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Defections

In the lead-up to the World Cup Jason Taumalolo featured prominently in New Zealand colours but switched to play for Tonga at the last minute. His decision shocked everyone, most of all NZ coach David Kidwell. He was joined by former Kiwis David Fusitu’a, Sio Siua Taukei’aho and Manu Ma’u. They were joined by Kangaroos prop Andrew Fifita, who had already been named in the Kangaroos squad.

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TONGA goes to the poll on November 16 to elect their 17 People’s Representatives in the Legislative Assembly. That is 12 months earlier than planned, after His Majesty King Tupou VI dissolved parliament in September and ordered fresh elections.

When the Supervisor of Elections closed the registration of candidates in late September, a total of 86 people had confirmed their interests to run from the 17 different constituencies. That is 20 less than the 106 that stood in the 2014 elections.

Fifteen candidates are women, fighting to win seats in parliament. More than 57,000 people have registered and interestingly the field of candidates include some new high-profiled locals who had served either in the civil service, regional organisations or the private sector. That makes the battle for the parliamentary seats more exciting. The ‘Akilisi Pohiva led Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands have named 17 candidates to contest the election.

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Crisis in the kingdom

TONGA’s political events in the past three weeks took the region by surprise. First it was His Majesty King Tupou VI who did the unprecedented and disssolved Parliament, with it also sending Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s government out. Having taken some advice from the Speaker of the Tonga Legislative Assembly, Lord Tu’ivakano, King Tupou VI became the first in the history of the Kingdom’s political life to use his powers under the Constitution to change a government and dissolve Parliament. Many Tongans, in Nuku’alofa and abroad, were shocked and caught unawares on August 24.

Even PM Pohiva said he was caught by surprise and did not know what happened until later in the day when the reality of it all finally sunk in. Lord Tu’ivakano, himself a former Prime Minister and a current Nobles’ representative in Parliament, later told the people of Tonga he had advised the King about certain issues that were causing uneasiness within Parliament and how the government of Akilisi Pohiva were dealing with them.

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Friends no more

Tonga heads to the polls

AS a student at the University of the South Pacific, Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva decided to put an end to what he saw as the corrupt system of governance in his homeland – Tonga. The monarchy and King Tupou IV were at the root of all that was bad about the system which civil servants, members of the nobility and foreigners rorted for personal benefit.

Upon his return to the kingdom, Pohiva launched a series of sustained attacks on the monarchy and corrupt governance systems using national radio as his platform. In 2010, Fiji-educated Dr Feleti Sevele – later Lord Sevele of Vailahi – was appointed the first commoner prime minister of the kingdom by the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. That appointment was largely caused by Pohiva’s agitation for change and the growing strength and anger of the pro-independence movement.

After the election of 2014, Pohiva became minister in 2014 – the first elected commoner to hold the position in 135 years. Today the freedom fighter-turned prime minister is a caretaker, effectively removed from office by a monarch who has found his head of government to be tiresome, bungling and increasingly unpopular. Two years ago it would have been impossible for the king to dismiss Parliament and the prime minister. 

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