PHOTO: Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva is currently in New Zealand for medical check. Photo/ Kaniva Pacific News
Tonga’s Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva told Kaniva News in Auckland he paid for three family members to accompany him to Auckland, where he has received medical care.
The three other family members who are currently in Auckland with the Prime Minister are his wife, First Lady Neomai, his private secretary Po’oi Pohiva and a cousin of Neomai.
The Prime Minister also paid for their stay in ‘Atalanga, the Tongan government’s residence in Epsom, Auckland.
Hon. Pohiva and his wife flew to Auckland for medical check-ups.
The Prime Minister said he caught a cold when they arrived and he was admitted to hospital during the weekend. He was later discharged.
He said this was due to the changes in warm and cold weather conditions between Tonga and Auckland.
PM’s healthcare budget
When asked whether the government had any budget for his medical care as Prime Minister of Tonga Hon. Pohiva said he had not asked for it.
“It’s up to the government to look at that, but part of the plan for our trip was for me to pay for everything while we are here in Auckland,” the Prime Minister said.
It is understood the Tongan government has a health care budget for the king and the royals, nobles, Prime Ministers and parliamentarians.
The Prime Minister looked fine and eager to talk and he said he was happy to visit New Zealand and stay in ‘Atalanga.
“This is our home in New Zealand and I am proud to come here and stay in this house,” he said.
The Prime Minister said he paid NZ$60 (TP90) a night for their stay and food.
“It supposed to be NZ$40, but I told the Tongan consul I would pay NZ$60 to help with the upkeep of the property,” Hon. Pohiva said.
“I feel at home here at ‘Atalanga because the staff here looked after me well.”
‘Atalanga is 1.58ha property at 183 St Andrews Rd bought by the late Queen Salote in 1952 to house Tongan scholarship students studying in Auckland.
In 2010 the Late King Tupou V listed the property for sale with Bayley’s real estate agent in Auckland and it was due to be auctioned on October 28 that year.
Tongans in Auckland protested against the sale and legal action was taken in Auckland and Nuku’alofa.
The legal action in New Zealand was led by the late Tongan legal counsel Mataitini Fotu and Sione Fonua, while in Tonga it was led by ‘Akilisi Pohiva and ‘Ofa Fakalata.
The protesters argued the then NZ$9 million (TP13.4 million) property belonged to the state and not the king and that His Majesty should not try to sell it.
The king finally withdrew the sale after his legal team failed to prove that Queen Salote bought the property with her own money after the protesters’ legal team submitted to court evidence that ‘Atalanga was purchased with state money.
The Prime Minister did not say whether his government had any plans for the property, except to say: “This is our home in New Zealand.”
While he was in opposition Hon. Pohiva repeatedly argued the residence should be used for something that could generate money to cover its costs and upkeep.
The upkeep and staffing are paid from Tongan taxpayers’ money. The property is used to house the Tonga consul and his staff who deal with diplomatic matters in New Zealand and issue Tongan passports.
The king used to stay there while he was in Auckland.
The main points
- Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has paid for three family members to travel with him to Auckland, where he has been receiving medical care.
- Travelling with him are his wife, First Lady Neomai, private secretary Po’oi Pohiva and a cousin of Neomai.
- The Prime Minister also paid for their stay in ‘Atalanga, the Tongan government’s residence in Epsom, Auckland.
- Pohiva said he had not asked the government whether it had funds to cover the costs of his medical care.
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