PM Pohiva knew about magazine payment,  Dr Eke claims, as interview row heats up

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Tonga’s Minister of Finance says Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva knew in advance he would pay  for an interview with Forbes magazine.

And he confirmed that the Cabinet approved a payment of nearly a quarter of a million pa’anga for the interview and a double page spread in the prestigious American business publication.

Kaniva News has obtained a copy of the contract between the Tongan government and the magazine.

We sent it to the government’s Chief Secretary for confirmation. In response, Dr Palenitina Langa’oi  said she copied our e-mail to Finance Ministry’s Secretary.

We are still waiting for a response.

Finance Minister Dr ‘Aisake Eke denied reports that he was the one who organised the agreement with Forbes representatives before contacting the Prime Minister.

Dr Eke was responding to an article in Taimi-‘O-Tonga newspaper by editor Kalafi Moala which accused the minister of arranging the interview without letting Hon. Pohiva know about it first and later defending the payment.

Dr Eke said Moala’s accusation against him brought into question his appropriateness as an advisor to the Prime Minister as he should have talked to the former secretary to cabinet and the Prime Minister to get his facts right before publishing a story.

In a statement released today in Tongan by the Ministry of Finance and National planning, Dr Eke said he did not know about the interview as the whole set up was done by the Prime Minister’s Office and he was only contacted by two Forbes representatives after they interviewed the Prime Minister.

The Finance Minister said when he met with the magazine’s representatives he was asked to check on the cost of paying the magazine for the interview.

Dr Eke said that was the first time when he knew about the payment. He said he was initially told  it would cost US$150,000, but he told them it was too expensive and the price was reduced to US$130,000.

Dr Eke claimed former  Secretary to Cabinet  ‘Aholotu Palu made the deal with Forbes, which was endorsed by the Prime Minister.

He said after the interview was approved the Prime Minister’s Office processed the visa applications for the magazine’s staff to come to Tonga.

Dr Eke said Moala accused him of defending the payment by saying it was a good marketing approach because Forbes had millions of readers.

However, Dr Eke said it was the Prime Minister who first informed the House about the benefits Tonga would receive from the interview. The Finance Ministry later released the details of the payment and a statement about its benefits for the nation.

The Minister also hit out at the newspaper editor’s question about how the Minister of Finance arranged the interview and paid for it from the Tourism vote without the minister of Tourism’s knowledge.

The Finance Minister said the Tourism Minister was a member of Cabinet which passed a resolution to pay for the interview from Tourism’s vote.

Dr Eke claimed Taimi-‘O-Tonga’s publisher had misrepresented his involvement in the Forbes interview and raised questions about his fitness to be a media advisor for the Prime Minister‘s Office.

The minister said Moala’s action had breached the government’s pledge to live by one of the core principles of the mechanism of good governance, which was to tell the truth.

The minister revealed the total amount of money eventually paid to Forbes was T$233,044.04 (US$109,612.26 or NZ$167,486.31) after a deduction of a 15 percent withholding tax.

Forbes interview

In February the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying Hon Pohiva had been interviewed by the magazine on February 11.

It said the magazine picked Tonga because of the appointment of Hon. Pohiva as Prime Minister and the upcoming coronation of His Majesty King Tupou VI.

The press statement claimed the interview would also appear in the Chinese edition of Forbes because of China’s investment in the kingdom.

There was no mention of any payment for the interview.

The government signed a contract with Forbes two days after Hon. Pohiva was interviewed.

Contract

The contract was made between the Minister of Finance and Forbes on February 13. It said: “The cooperation undertakes to include an advertisement on report on Kingdom of Tonga which is to be published in Forbes magazine, with the following characteristics: Double page spread.”

A payment of US$130,000 was also noted to be paid by the Tongan government, in which 50 percent must be paid before March 13 and the remaining 50 percent to be paid on publication.

According to cabinet decision 444, the Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet Dr. Palenitina Langaʻoi told the Ministry of Finance the recommendation for the payment was approved by Cabinet on April 27. She confirmed that the payment had to be paid from the Tonga Tourism Authority vote.

The Prime Minister said at the time he was unaware that the interview would cost so much amount of money.

He defended the payment by saying the government spent a lot of money on tourist promotions each year and that the interview with Forbes was worth it because of its target audience.

The main points

  • Tonga’s Minister of Finance says Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva knew in advance he would pay for an interview with Forbes
  • And he confirmed that the Cabinet approved a payment of nearly a quarter of a million pa’anga for the interview and a double page spread in the prestigious American business publication.
  • Finance Minister Dr ‘Aisake Eke denied reports that he was the one who organised the agreement with Forbes representatives before contacting the Prime Minister.
  • Dr Eke was responding to an article in Taimi-‘O-Tonga newspaper by editor Kalafi Moala which accused the minister of arranging the interview without letting Hon. Pohiva know about it first and later defending the payment.

For more information

Hon. Prime Minister’s Interview with the Forbes Magazine (Prime Minister’s Office)

Tonga pays thousands to Forbes for PM interview (RNZI)

Forbes magazine

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  1. HALA ‘A E TUKUAKI’I ‘O E MINISITĀ PA’ANGA MO PALANI FAKAFONUA ‘E KALAFI MOALA FELĀVE’I MO E MAKASINI FORBES

    ‘Oku ‘oatu ‘a e fakamatala ko ‘eni ke fakatonutonu’aki ‘a e fakamatala hala ne tuku atu ‘e Kalafi Moala ‘i he‘ene pepa ko e Taimi o Tonga, voliume 26, Pulelulu, aho 1 ‘o Siulai 2015 ‘i he ‘ene kōlomu ko e Tohinoa ‘o e Fakaoli.

    Na’e pehē ‘e Kalafi Moala “Na’e ‘ikai ke mea’i ‘e he Palēmia ko hono faka’eke’eke ia he makasini Forbes ‘oku ‘i ai hono totongi. Na’a ne toki ‘ilo kuo ‘osi fai e fo’i aleapau ia ‘a ia na’e fakahoko ‘e he Minisitā Pa’anga, Dr ‘Aisake Eke.”

    ‘I he tali ‘a e Minisitā Pa’anga na’a ne pehe ‘oku hala ‘aupito ‘a e tukuaki’i ko ‘eni, koe’uhi na’e ‘ikai ha’ane ‘ilo ‘e taha ki he fokotu’utu’u ki he faka’eke’eke ‘a e Forbes mo e Palēmia he na’e fai pe ‘a e fokotu’utu’u ko ia ‘e he ‘Ofisi ‘a e Palēmia, pea ko ‘ene toki ‘ilo i he taimi ne fetu’utaki mai ai ‘a e toko ua ne na fai ‘a e faka’eke’eke ke fai ha faka’eke’eke mo e Minisitā Pa’anga, hili ia ‘a e ‘osi ‘a e faka’eke’eke ‘a e Forbes mo e Palēmia, kuo na ‘osi ‘i Tonga ni kinaua ia.

    ‘I he fakataha ‘a e Minisitā Pa’anga mo e toko ua ko ‘eni, ne fakaha ange ai kuo ‘osi fai ‘a e fakataha ia mo e Palēmia, pea ‘oku tuku mai kia au ko e Minisitā Pa’anga ‘e he Palēmia ke fai ‘a e lau ki he patiseti ki hono totongi ‘a e pulusi ‘o e faka’eke’eke ‘i he makasini Forbes.

    Ko e toki taimi ia ne u lave’i ai ‘a e totongi, pea na’e ‘eke pe ‘oku fiha pea na talamai ko e US$150,000 pea u talaange ‘oku fu’u mamafa, pea holo leva ki he US$130,000.

    Ne mahino mei he Sekelitali Pule (‘Aholotu Palu) ko e alea mo e Kautaha Forbes na’e fakangofua pe ia ‘e he Palēmia hili hono fakahoko ange kiate ia ‘a e fie pōtalanoa ‘a e kautaha mo e Palēmia. Ne toe pehē ‘e he Sekelitali ne hili hono fakangofua ‘e he Palēmia ke fai ‘a e faka’eke’eke ne toki ngāue ‘a e ‘Ōfisi Palēmia ki hono fakahoko ‘a e ngāue ki he visa tū’uta mai ‘a e ongo faka’eke’eke.

    ‘I he tū’uta mai ‘a e ongo faka’eke’eke pea fakahoko leva mo e faka’eke’eke mo e Palēmia, pea ko e toki taimi ia na’e toki hā mai ai ‘oku ‘i ai ‘a e totongi, pea na’e fakahoko ange ‘e he Palemia ke fakahoko ki he Minisitā Pa’anga ‘a e talanoa ki he patiseti ki hono pulusi ‘o e faka’eke’eke.

    Ko e tukuaki’i hala ‘e taha ko e pehē ‘e Kalafi “Kuo hopo mai ‘a e Minisitā Pa’anga ia ‘o fakatonuhia’i ‘a e mea ni tupu mei he ‘uhinga koaa ko e fakamāketi’i lahi ‘eni o Tonga, he oku lau miliona ‘a e kau lau makasini”. I he tali ‘a e Minisitā Pa’anga na’a ne pehē, ne ‘uluaki me’a ‘a e ‘Eiki Palēmia ia ‘i he Fale Alea, ‘o tali ki he ‘uhinga ne ō mai ai ‘a e Forbes ‘o faka’eke’eke ia, pea mo e lelei ki he Fonua ‘a hono ngaue’aki ‘a e makasini ko ‘eni.

    Ne toki tuku atu e he Potungāue Pa’anga ia ki mui ‘a e fakamatala fakaikiiki felāve’i mo e totongi ki he pulusi ‘o e faka’eke’eke ‘i he makasini, pea mo ‘ene kaunga lelei ki he Fonua.

    Na’e toe hala mo e fakamatala ‘a Kalafi he ’ene pehē “ ’E anga fēfē ha alea’i e me’a ni ia ‘e he Minisitā Pa’anga, pea ha’u ia o totongi mei he vouti ‘a e Takimamata, ta’eilo ki ai ‘a e Takimamata?”.

    Ne tali ki heni ‘a e Minisitā Pa’anga ‘o pehē na’e ikai kau ia he alea’i ‘a e omai ‘a e kau faka’eke’eke ko eni mei he Forbes, pea ko e tu’utu’uni ia ‘a e Kapineti ke totongi ‘a e pa’anga ‘oku fiema’u ke pulusi ‘a e faka’eke’eke ‘i he Forbes, pea ke totongi mei he vouti ‘a e Takimamata.

    ‘Oku kau ‘a e Minisitā Takimamata ‘i he Kapineti. ‘A ia ‘oku hala ‘aupito ‘a e tukuaki’i ‘e Kalafi ko e ngāue tokotaha pe ‘a e Minisitā Pa’anga ki hono totongi ‘oku ‘ikai ilo ki ai ‘a e Takimamata.

    ‘Oku toe fakatonutonu foki ‘a e hala ‘a e fakamatala ‘a Kalafi ‘o pehē, “Na’e ‘ikai ke fai ha fakapoa ki he Palēmia. Fai e alea ko ‘eni ‘a e Sekelitali Pule ‘o e taimi ko ia (‘Aholotu Palu) pea mo e Minisitā Pa’anga, Aisake Eke, ta’e fai ha talanoa mo ma’u fale’i mei a te kinautolu ne nau ala fale’i ki he me’a ni.” ‘Oku hala ‘a e lau ko ‘eni he ko e fokotuu’tu’u ki he folau mai ‘a e Forbes ne fai pe ia ‘e he ‘Ōfisi ‘o e Palēmia ‘i he fengāue’aki ‘a e Sekelitali Pule ‘i he ‘aho ko ia ko ‘Aholotu Palu pea mo e ‘Eiki Palēmia, ‘a ia ‘oku hā atu ‘i ‘olunga ‘a e fakamatala ne ma’u mei he Sekelitali Pule ki he kamata’anga ‘a e fokotu’utu’u ki he folau mai ‘a e kau faka’eke’eke. Ko ia ko e ‘Ōfisi Palēmia pe ia ne nau fai ‘a e fokotuu’tuu.

    Na’e ‘ikai ‘aupito ha kaunga pe ‘ilo ki ai ‘a e Minisitā Pa’anga ki he fokotu’utu’u ko ‘eni, ko ‘ene toki ‘ilo pē he fakafe’iloaki mai ki ai ki he fakaeke’eke, pea mo e ‘ai ke totongi hili ‘a e ‘osi ‘a e faka’eke’eke mo e Eiki Palēmia.

    Kuo ‘osi ‘i heni ‘a e Forbes ia” ko e tali ia ‘a e Minisitā Pa’anga.

    ‘Oku hoko ‘a e fakamatala hala ‘a Kalafi Moala ‘o tukuaki’i hala ai ‘a e Minisitā Pa’anga ke fehu’ia ai ‘a e taau ‘a Kalafi ke ne kei hoko atu ‘i he ngāue ‘oku ne fai ki he pule’anga, he na’e totonu ke ne vakai’i mo e Minisitā Pa’anga mo e Sekelitali Pule ‘o e Ofisi ‘o e Palēmia ‘i he taimi ko ia, ‘a ‘Aholotu Palu, ke na fakamatala ki he me’a na’e hoko, pea ne toki tuku atu ‘a ‘ene fakamatala koe’uhi ke kakato pea mo mo’oni.

    ‘I he‘ene pehē, ‘oku fehu’ia ai ‘a e tu’unga falala’anga mo e taau ‘o Kalafi ko e tokotaha Fale’i Fakamatala Faiongoongo ki he ‘Ofisi Palēmia. ‘Oku uesia heni ‘e Kalafi ‘a e tukupā ‘a e Pule’anga ke fakahaa’i ‘a e mo’oni ‘i he ‘ene fakahoko fatongia ki he Fonua, he ko e ‘ulungaanga mahu’inga ia ki he pule lelei, ko e lau ia ‘a e Minisitā Pa’anga.
    Na’e fe’unga mo e T$233,044.04 ne totongi ki he paaki ‘o e faka’eke’eke ‘i he makasini Forbes, hili ‘a e to’o ‘a e pēseti ‘e 15 (TOP$41,121.89) ko e totongi tukuhau (withholding tax), ko e fakahā ia ‘e he Minisitā Pa’anga mo Palani Fakafonua.