Oct 22, 2017 Last Updated 8:27 AM, Oct 20, 2017

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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Tonga eyes Apia route

Talks start on flight options

THE withdrawal of Samoa from a joint venture with Virgin Australia has sent regional airlines into a frenzy. In June, Real Tonga’s Deputy CEO, Fakatele Faletau, flew into Samoa to look at the possibility of scheduled flights between the Polynesian neighbours.

The move came just a week after Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilapea Sailele Malielegaoi, made public the region’s worst kept aviation secret – his country was fed up with its deal with Virgin. Faletau was coy when approached by Islands Business in Sydney to discuss his Samoa visit.

“We are looking at options, including an air service agreement with Samoa,” Faletau said. “It’s all part of doing business in the Pacific. We need to discuss issues which are important nationally and commercially.” If Real Tonga can secure flights into Samoa, the service will allow an optional link from Nuku’alofa connecting off Fiji Airways’ current route from Nadi to Fua’motu.

The benefit to Tonga will be that it can attract visitors to spend time in the kingdom before travelling on to Samoa or back to Fiji. Real Tonga will want to extract an agreement from Samoa based on the kingdom allowing Talofa Airlines to fly from Pago Pago to Vava’u, Nuku’alofa and Apia.

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BY month’s end, The fate the 2019 Pacific Games will be known. A journey that began five years ago when Tonga won the bid to host the Pacific’s premier quadrennial sports event has turned sour after Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva announced last month his government was pulling out. Pohiva finally came out of the woodwork after months of stifling tactics and constant interference with the organising of the Games that’s left the sporting fraternity in total bewilderment.

Looking at the timeline of events, things would be well on track by now without Pohiva’s unnecessary intrusions.

• October 2012 – Pacific Games Council awards Tonga rights to host the 16th Pacific Games in 2019. In support of Tonga’s bid, then Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano suggested the games would cement the foundation for democracy in Tonga after democratic elections were held in 2010.

• December 2014 – Akilisi Pohiva is the first commoner appointed Prime Minister by the Parliament instead of the King.

• November 2015 – Tonga Games Organising committee awards NZ company Creative Spaces US$11million to commence upgrading works on the Teufaiva Stadium. Then Finance minister Aisake Eke endorsed the deal confirming availability of funds for the project.

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