ʻOku ʻi lalo heni ʻa e ongoongó ni ʻi he lea faka-Tongá
The Chinese Embassy in Tonga has described a letter purporting to be from Prime Minister ’Akilisi Pohiva as “groundless and not true.”
And the Prime Minister’s office said the letter was clearly intended to denigrate the Prime Minister while he was facing a vote of no confidence motion that has been tabled in parliament.
The document was posted to Facebook and widely shared online and was published on the Nepituno website this afternoon.
Nepituno editor Dr Viliami Latu said he was handed the original letter from a “very reliable source” before he photocopied it and published.
He said the letter was “authentic” and he sought advice from a legal adviser before their publication.
He said he received a number of contacts after he published the letter and he was not the only one who received the letter including leading figures in the community.
The documented, dated January 9, purports to have been written by Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pohiva to the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China.
A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy, Wang Xuejun, said the embassy had never received such a letter.
“We suspect that the letter is fabricated because there is no such an institution like Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China, and the Prime Minster of Tonga never visited Beijing.”
The document published by Nepituno reads:
“Thank you for the warm welcome in Beijing. l am writing this to you to accentuate the important parts from the discussions that we had in China. There is a big problem in Tonga that is preventing us from transitioning into a democracy. Religion and its institutions are halting our country’s progress.
The church has too much power and the people are too religious as a result. They listen to the church, the King and the monarchy, who are the “protectors” of the church. They hold on to outdated beliefs that only serve to hurt Tonga.
We have to create a plan to decrease the influence of religion. I cannot say this publicly, because the people and my constituents would tum against me. I am writing this to formulate a confidential 2-3 year plan with the goal of secularizing the country and eventually removing all power from the monarchy.
We must at the very least institute plans to erase all religious teachings in school, allow businesses to open on Sunday and crack down on religious leaders in the country. If we can accomplish this, then I have no doubt that we can transition into a fully democratic Tonga. We must also remove the nobility from power, as they only serve to increase the influence of the King.
Suffice to day, that this letter is to be treated with the utmost secrecy because we all know what is at stake here. I also would like to confirm from our previous talks your help with scheduling treatment for my medical condition.”
The Prime Minister’s office said the Prime Minister had travelled to Singapore in January, but not continued to china as originally planned.
The Prime Minister did not write the letter and the document published by Nepituno was fabricated, it said.
Has the curse of ‘fake news’ come to Tonga?
The document purporting to be from Hon. Pohiva is a strange piece of work.
It appears to be a clumsy and deliberate attempt to stir up resentment of the Chinese, insinuate that the Prime Minister is anti-religious and opposed to the monarchy.
It uses American spelling and phrases like “transition to democracy” that appear to have been borrowed from somebody else. In short, it simply doesn’t sound like the Prime Minister.
This totally contradicts the Prime Minister’s public statement on the role of the monarchy in Tonga’s new democratic society and his government’s demonstrable sensitivity to the opinion of the country’s religious leaders.
It is also written by somebody who thinks there is only one church in the kingdom – presumably their own.
The really questionable aspect is the throw-away reference to “my medical condition” at the end, as if the author wanted to throw in everything he could to stir up antipathy to Hon. Pohiva. Surely if the Prime Minister was ill, he would specify whatever ailed him.
If this is fake news, then the next task for the media is to find out who wrote it and why.
The main points
- The Chinese Embassy in Tonga has described a letter purporting to be from Prime Minister’ Akilisi Pohiva as “groundless and not true.”
- The document was posted to Facebook and widely shared online and published in some sections of the Tongan media.
- The documented, dated January 9, purports to have been written by Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pohiva to the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China
- A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy, Wang Xuejun, said the embassy had never received such a letter.
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