Oct 22, 2019 Last Updated 2:59 AM, Oct 16, 2019

Pōhiva Tu‘i‘onetoa  is officially the prime minister of Tonga.

King Tupou VI signed the warrant appointing Tu‘i‘onetoa as prime minister in a swearing in ceremony at the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa Tuesday.

Tu’i’onetoa has outlined policy areas in which he revealed his People’s Party new slogan – “Counting two as one.”

In Tongan, “Lau e ua ko e taha”, means to regard two people with different views as one and treat them the same way.

He said this was a time for “reconciliation” and uniting the country which has been long-divided by political rivalries and dispute.

Tu’i’onetoa said his government would focus on sealing all public roads and filling roads to plantations and tax allotments with rocks. It's second priority is the e-government project.

He said last night a revocation process was underway to terminate some members of the ‘Akilisi Pōhiva’s cabinet ministers before the king would appoint the new cabinet ministers.

Tu’i’onetoa has confirmed his new cabinet lineup is as follows:

  1. Dr Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa – Prime Minister of Tonga, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Public Enterprises
  1. Sione Vuna Fā’otusia – Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Justice and Prison
  1. Tēvita Lavemaau – Minister of Finance, Minister of Customs and Revenue
  1. Siaosi Sovaleni – Minister of Education
  1. Dr. ‘Amelia Afuha’amango Tu’ipulotu – Minister of Health
  1. ‘Akosita Lavulavu – Minister of Infrastructure, Minister of Tourism
  1. Poasi Tei – Minister of MEIDECC
  1. Lord Nuku – Minister of Police
  1. Sāmiu Vaipulu – Minister of Trade and Economic Development
  1. Vātau Hui – Minister of Internal Affairs
  1. Lord Tu’ilakepa – Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
  1. Lord Ma’afu – Minister of His Majesty’s Armed Forces, Minister of Land and Survey and Natural Resources

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said: “Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa studied Accounting at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand (CA) in 1982. He received a Graduate Diploma in Financial Management from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia in 1993, and went on graduating with a Master of Business Accounting (MBA) from the same University in 1994. He received his Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA) from the Fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountant of New Zealand in 1999. He is a certified Management Accountant (CMA) from the Institute of Certified Management Accountants in Australia in 1997, and a receiver of a certificate of Civil Law from the University of the South Pacific. 

“The Hon. Tu’i’onetoa is a Doctor of Christian Ministry, from the Faith Evangelical Lutheran Seminary, Tacoma, Washington, USA since 2000.

“He first joined the Tonga Civil Service in January, 1979. He was the Official Liquidator at the Department of Justice, commercial Division in Hamilton, New Zealand. He served as Tonga’s Auditor General (AG) from 1983-2014, before he was first elected to parliament in the 2014 General Election as People’s Representative for Tongatapu Constituency No.10. He was a Private Secretary to His Majesty from 1987-1988, and also clerk to the Privy Council during the same period.

“In the Pohiva’s Government, Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa served as Minister for Labour, Commerce and Industries; Minister of Police, Prisons and Fire Services. He became Minister of Revenue and Customs up to September 2017, where he was later appointed as Minister of Finance and National Planning in January 2018. 

“He was a member and representative at the International Congresses of International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI); elected member of the Governing Board of INTOSAI for six years in 1992, and was reelected in 1998 for another six years until 2004. He attended the Conference of Commonwealth Auditors General, and the regional branch of INTOSAI the SPASAI. He was also Secretary General of SPASAI for 10 years from 1985-1994. He is currently one of the Governors of the World Bank – IMF.”

Farewell Palemia Pohiva

By Samisoni Pareti

Tonga today buried the man who dared 30 years ago to take on the might and mana of the Pacific's last surviving monarchy and got rewarded as the kingdom's first commoner to be elected prime minister. 

Elected prime minister not once, but twice.

Samuela 'Akilisi Pohiva was 78 when he succumbed to pneumonia at a hospital in Auckland on Thursday last week.

It ended 31 years of being a People's Representatives in the Tongan Legislature, a political career horned from years of fighting a monarchy that resisted political change.

He suffered imprisonment and numerous prosecutions during the 3 decade long campaign for democracy in Tonga.

Pohiva has been unwell for quite some time, reportedly from a kdney ailment.

Before he was airlifted to Auckland on Wednesday last week, he has been hospitalised for two weeks.

A large number of foreign dignatries flew to Tonga this week to say farewell to a Prime Minister who was first elected PM in 2014, and then again in 2018.

Representing the king was queen consort, Her Majesty Nanasipau'u Tuku'aho.

King Tupou VI was absent, reportedly travelling to the United States.

It is no state secret that the two were not close as the two clashed repeatedly and many times publicly when the king served as prime minister of Tonga in 2000 to 2006. prior to sweeping constitutional changes that wrestled the power to elect the prime minister from the king and gave it to elected members of the legislature.

Those changes were triggered by public protests that saw rioting and the burning of Nuku'alofa's CBD in 2006.

China paid for bulk of the reconstruction of Nuku'alofa through a loan that the Pohiva Government inherited and complainingly struggled to repay.  

All those concerns were set aside today as foreign dignatries flew in for the funeral. Among them were Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, high chief and deputy prime minister of Samoa, as well as Fiji's president Jioji Konrote.

They joined acting prime minister Semisi Sika and members of his Majesty's cabinet.

The New Zealand government had provided a jet of the Royal New Zealand Airforce to fly the body of he late prime minister to Nuku'alofa on Tuesday this week.

He laid in state inside the main St George Government Buildings in the centre of Nuku'alofa, not far from the Palace. China interestingly also paid for the construction of the complex.

Pohiva was accorded a full state funeral with school children sitting with heads bowed on both sides of the road that the funeral cortege used.

The funeral service was held at the Centenary Church in Saione before Pohiva was buried at the Telekava Cemetery.

When news of his passing spread like wildfire in mainstream and social media last week, Michael Field, a veteran New Zealand photojournalist who was working on an official biography of Pohiva released the following message he said was penned by the late Prime Minister on his deathbed in Auckland:

To the people of Tonga

It has been 32 years since you elected me as your representative,

And that became a sacred covenant for my existence

We established a vision

And I did everything possible to turn that vision into reality

No energy was spared

Thank you for giving me your trust

Your support

Your love

I have fulfilled my obligations to you

This is my final farewell

Tu’a ‘ofa atu!

- Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, 11 September 2019


Tonga's PM dies in Auckland

By Samantha Magick

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has passed away in Auckland.

Pohiva was flown to Auckland from Nuku’alofa late yesterday, after spending two weeks in hospital in Tonga with pneumonia but died this morning.

The 78-year old has been very ill for the past year and had been receiving treatment for liver disease.

Pohiva is a former history teacher who led Tonga’s pro-democracy movement. Though the efforts of Pohiva and other democracy campaigners, Tonga became a constitutional monarchy. He was first elected to parliament in 1987 and in 2014 became Prime Minister, the first commoner to be elected to the position. His decades in politics were tumultuous; he was imprisoned for contempt of parliament,  twice charged with sedition and in 2017, he and his entire cabinet was dismissed by King Tupou VI, only to be re-elected.

Just last month Prime Minister Pohiva attended what was to be his last Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu.

Tongan parliament has been indefinitely suspended reports Matangi Tonga.

Condolences from regional leaders have begun to pour in:

Vanuatu foreign minister Ralph Regenvanu: “My condolences for a good friend and principled leader. RIP Tongan PM 'Akilisi Pohiva dies, aged 78.”

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama: I mourn the passing of Tongan PM ʻAkilisi Pōhiva, who inspired the world with raw emotion at last month's Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu (which, despite his health, he attended in recognition of the urgency of climate action). We must honour his legacy by continuing this fight.

Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne: “Saddened to hear of the passing of Prime Minister of Tonga Akilisi Pohiva. He was a respected leader in the Pacific, and a good friend to Australia. My deepest condolences to his family and the people of the Kingdom of Tonga.”

New Zealand Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa: RIP & my sincerest condolences to Rt Hon ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s family as well as to the Kingdom of Tonga. Such a tremendous loss for all of us Tongans. ‘Ofa moe lotu mei Uelingatoni, Falealea ‘o Nu’usila.

The Pacific nations are set to jet off to Japan with less than a month to go till the opening of the Rugby World Cup 2019. The entertainers of rugby, the South Sea Islanders are looking to once again set the Rugby World Cup stage ablaze.

Tonga, Samoa and Fiji were part of the Pasifika Challenge Event held at New Zealand rugby’s sacred ground, Eden Park last weekend.

Samoa and NZ team, the Heartland XV faced off in the first thrilling encounter, ending with a 36-19 victory to Manu Samoa. The Samoans dictated most of the passages in the game and a strong finish in the second half saw them scoring a total of five tries compared to 3 from their counterparts.

As coach Steve Jackson had mentioned ahead of the match: "We've named an exciting team and there's some guys out there that are going to be playing their first games so it's going to be great for them."

There were three debutants for Samoa, Crusaders tighthead prop Michael Alaalatoa and Southern Tornadoes Number eight Tofatuimoana Solia started in the line-up while Queensland Reds halfback Scott Malolua was among the reserves.

Seasoned at first five eight, Tusi Pisi proved to be decisive as always with Ed Fidow and Ahsee Tuala causing havoc on the wings. Tim Nanai Williams made a timely return to the side at fullback in the hopes of making the World Cup squad selection. He was also a huge factor in Samoa’s attacking game.

Captain and openside flanker Jack Lam led his troops from the get-go and put on a man of the match level performance. The 6.1 ft tall, 103 kg no.7 will be one of the players to watch during the Japan RWC 2019.

The second Pasifika Challenge clash was a tight contest between Tonga and Fiji at first, until the Fijians finally found their rhythm to finish the game 29-19 on top at full time.

Tonga started brilliantly with a tremendous try in the corner to Captain and outside center Siale Piutau to open the exchange, but Fiji immediately struck back with one of their own from Josua Tuisova.

The Tongan forwards were utilising the size and strength up front and the maul was working well for them as they scored one from a lineout drive. A try was awarded to hooker Paula Nagauamo, and was followed by another free-flowing passage and ridiculously good pass and support play by the Flying Fijians giving Vereniki Goneva a taste of the white chalk.

Fiji head coach John Mckee was particularly happy with his boy’s performance but still feel they still have a lot more to offer: “We worked very hard in our phase defence and at goal line defence at times. I think the players also made some good individual tackling in the game. We need to brush up on few areas; when executing the ball which was evident in the first-half.”

Other Fijians to score tries were Semi Kunatani, Captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu and Sam Matavesi. Tonga manage to get one back, but it was too little too late, as the deficit was too much with time running out.

The Tongans were awarded many penalties in the first stanza but fail to capitalise and convert those opportunities into points. They opted to kick for touch in all occasions. It was obvious that Tonga were not concerned in making easy points in the test match but were rather playing to find the right combination and improve their set pieces as they build up for Japan.

The test match was a stepping-stone to fine tune and brush up on team tactics despite the comments made by head coach Toutai Kefu earlier in the week. "We have our best team on the park, so we want to win. That's our goal”, he said. However, a change in tactics was very evident last Saturday in Auckland.

Tonga has one last test match against the All Blacks this coming weekend with Samoa also taking on the Wallabies to complete their RWC preparations.

Fiji issued their traditional farewell to President Hon. Joiji Konrote at the State House Conservatory today followed by a Sayonara Gala dinner at Sofitel, Denarau before departing for Japan on Friday.

By Nic Maclellan in Funafuti, Tuvalu

Members of the Pacific Islands Forum have urged Indonesia to take action on human rights violations in West Papua, and strongly encouraged Jakarta to facilitate a long-mooted visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

Regional Prime Ministers and Presidents met this week in Tuvalu for the 50th Pacific Islands Forum. Echoing the language of the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting in July, the leaders “welcomed the invitation by Indonesia for a mission to West Papua (Papua) by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and strongly encouraged both sides to finalise the timing of the visit and for an evidence-based, informed report on the situation be provided before the next Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in 2020.”

Human rights groups have long reported on violations by Indonesian police and military forces deployed in West Papua. However, concern has escalated since the Indonesian army extended operations around Nduga in West Papua last December, following the shooting of construction workers on road-building operations through the regency. Since then, West Papuan human rights monitoring groups have reported that more than 30,000 people have been displaced, with healthcare facilities and schools damaged during Indonesian military operations. The Jakarta Post has reported that at least 182 displaced people have died from exposure and lack of food after fleeing their homes since December.

Lobbying the leaders

In recent years, West Papua has been a constant topic on the agenda of the 18-member Pacific Islands Forum. This week in Funafuti, members of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), including chair Benny Wenda and spokesperson Jacob Rumbiak, have been lobbying island leaders for support. Indonesia too has a delegation in Funafuti to participate in the Post-Forum Dialogue, including West Papuan lobbyist Nick Messet.

West Papua was a key issue raised in the formal dialogue between Forum leaders and civil society organisations (CSO) on Wednesday. CSO leaders presented a wide-ranging statement which included the request “that Forum Leaders call on Indonesia to immediately allow access of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN special mandate holders to West Papua….None of us can speak of an inclusive and peaceful Pacific and remain silent on the serious human rights issues for West Papuans. We call on Pacific Leaders to observe the importance of human rights in all parts of our region.” 

Tongan Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva responded emotionally to their call for action on West Papua.

“We should not let others control us. We should stand together in solidarity in support of the people of West Papua”, said Pohiva.

Speaking after the CSO dialogue, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches Reverend James Bhagwan said: “I’m very encouraged by the discussions and that they have made this a priority in the leaders retreat. We try to look at this not just as a moral issue, but to be pragmatic about the realities, knowing that there are strong partnerships between Indonesia and some Forum island countries – that was mentioned by Fiji and Australia.”

“Coming from a human rights perspective, you cannot talk about a Pacific household if people are excluded from that,” Reverend Bhagwan said. “You can’t talk about Pacific regionalism if there’s no Pacific solidarity. The inaction by Pacific leaders on West Papua speaks very loudly to that, and I think that was recognised. The responses from Tonga, from Samoa, even Kiribati and of course Vanuatu – with their consistent support – was very important today.”

Rev. Bhagwan stressed: “You can’t build a house and then ignore people. That recognition of one family, the Pacific family, is very key to this.”   

Leaders want action by Indonesia

In their final communique, Forum leaders “reaffirmed recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty over West Papua (Papua). Leaders acknowledged the reported escalation in violence and continued allegations of human rights abuses in West Papua (Papua) and agreed to re-emphasise and reinforce the Forum’s position of raising its concerns over the violence.”

ULMWP Chair Benny Wenda said: “I welcome all the leaders’ decision. This is the first time that Forum leaders have called for a United Nations human rights visit. It’s time for Indonesia to allow the UN Human Rights Commissioner to come to visit West Papua. I think it’s an important step now.”

While the resolution makes no mention of the right to self-determination, Wenda welcomed the decision as a positive move forward: “This is step by step. This is the starting point and the fact that the resolution is a really, really important step for us to go to another level.”

Vanuatu has long championed the West Papuan cause and lobbied strongly for action. Vanuatu Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said: “It’s the resolution we wanted so we’re very grateful to all the Pacific Island leaders. The resolution from the leaders and the very strong statements made in the CSO session on this issue shows that they all recognise that something more has got to be done, because the human rights situation is worsening.”

Regenvanu said he hoped that the UN Human Rights Commissioner could provide an “honest and frank account” to the next Forum leaders’ meeting

“The resolution is the result of the worsening situation just in the last year for human rights in West Papua,” he said. “In the last few years, the resolution has been about constructive engagement with Indonesia on the issue. But I think the leaders realised that the open and constructive engagement had not necessarily achieved the improvements in human rights that are desired. I think the situation in Nduga over the last year has caused Forum leaders to elevate the tone of the resolution.”

With his country scheduled to host the 51st regional summit next year in Port Vila, the Vanuatu Foreign Minister said: “We also want a report back by the next Forum so the leaders can consider it under this agenda, which is a standing agenda of the Forum.”

“The onus is now on the Secretariat of the Forum and the member states of PIF, including the members that are part of the Human Rights Council, that they need to make sure the Commissioner gets to go,” he said. “Indonesia should see that there is a very clear concern and we hope this this statement will make them come to the table and work with the Commissioner to make sure this mission does happen.”

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