Tongan Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva this evening reaffirmed to a group led by church leaders in Auckland, New Zealand that he will not allow casinos to be built in Tonga.

Pōhiva said he made a public statement early this week that there was no room for a casino in Tonga and he still stood by it.

His statement was made to Kaniva News in Hastings on Monday night.

The peaceful meeting with the group was held in the Holiday Inn’s lobby in Mangere after the Tongan delegation tried to secure a room, but was told the hotel was full.

The group, which was led by Rev. Tevita Finau of the Methodist Church, community leader Salote Heleta Lilo and Rev. Tevita ʻIloa Tuʻineau of the Church of England petitioned the Prime Minister to not allow casinos to be built in Tonga.

Also in attendance were former Tongan solders Sione Tosi Kelekolio Tapueluelu, Tamale Faleafa and Melino Maka of the Tonga Advisory Council.

After they presented their petition, the Prime Minister said in Tongan: “I would like to make it short. I will never allow a casino to build in Tonga.” The group members nodded in approval.

Hon. Pōhiva told the petitioners he would take their letter back to Tonga for his cabinet to discuss.

He told the group his cabinet would make a formal reply to their petition.

Before the group arrived Kaniva News told the Prime Minister that after we released his statement on Tuesday quoting him as saying no to a casino in Tonga  a reliable source sent us documents including a letter that appeared to contradict his stance on casino.

The letter has also been widely shared on social media.

The letter, which appeared to have been written by Finance Minister Tevita Lavemaau on November 24, 2016 while he was then Minister of Custom and Revenues said the government has already approved the application by the Red Warrior company to build casinos in Tonga.

In that unconfirmed letter, the Minister wrote:

“I refer to His Majesty’s cabinet decision No. 1104 made on the 4th November 2016 whereby the proposal from the Tavake Tamafua Tourism Investment Project was approved and given full support by the Government of Tonga,” the letter said.

“I am pleased to inform you that the Government of Tonga will grant and guarantee an exclusivity right for a casino and gaming license to the Red Warrior Group LLC under the precondition that an appropriate infrastructure is being built in Tonga within the next two years.”

But the Prime Minister denied it and said his cabinet had never approved any application to build a casino in Tonga.

He said the first time he looked at the application from the Red Warrior and its Tongan stakeholder, the Tavake Tamafua the wording was vague and it appeared the applicants were trying to hide their intention to indirectly trick the government into approving the proposal to build a casino.

He said he told the Minister in charge to review the application to make sure anything they approved did not include a casino.

Kaniva News also talked to his Chief Secretary who joined the meeting shortly after it began and asked her about the Finance Minister’s letter.

Dr Palenitina said whether the letter was written by the Finance Minister or not, the only thing she could confirm was that there had been no cabinet decision to allow a casino.

Suspicious letter

We have asked Hon. Lavemaau to confirm whether or not he was the one who wrote and signed the controversial letter. He has yet to respond.

But Kulu ‘Anisi Bloomfield, his CEO at the Ministry of Customs and Revenue, at which Lavemaau was the former Minister, and a member of the Cabinet sub-committee screening the Red Warrior Entertainment’s application, said he was suspicious of the unconfirmed letter.

He said he was the one who supposed to write such a letter according to the Ministry’s procedure.

He also said the government seal in the letter head was not centred on the page, but was aligned to the left.

Dr Langaʻoi reiterated what Bloomfield told Kaniva News yesterday, that the cabinet only approved the Red Warrior Entertainmentʻs application to build a hotel and shopping mall “in principle.”

Bloomfield said before they could be approved the developers had to provide a map of the projects in compliance with the building code.

They were also required to deposit money required by the government for the project. When these were completed the government would consider the application.

“As far as I know the company has yet to complete any of these requirements,” Bloomfield said.

The main points

  • Tongan Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva this evening reaffirmed to a group led by church leaders in Auckland, New Zealand that he will not allow casinos to be built in Tonga.
  • Pōhiva said he made a public statement early this week that there was no room for a casino in Tonga and he still stood by it.
  • His statement was made to Kaniva News in Hastings on Monday night.
  • The group, which was led by Rev. Tevita Finau of the Methodist Church, community leader Salote Lilo and Rev. Tevita ʻIloa Tuʻineau of the Church of England petitioned the Prime Minister to not allow casinos to be built in Tonga.

For more information

Still no clarity on casino issue as documents present conflicting evidence

Is the devil really coming to Tonga? Confusion reigns as pastors and soldiers prepare protest

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  1. Kuo toe fakapapau’i ‘e he ʻEiki Palēmiá ʻAkilisi Pōhiva ʻi haʻane meʻa ki ha kulupu ne tataki ʻe ha fakafofonga mei he Tākanga e Kau Taki Lotu Aotearoa ʻi ʻAokalaní ʻe ʻikai pe ke tuʻu ha kasino ʻi Tonga.

    Pehē ʻe Pōhivá ne ne ʻosi tuku ange mai haʻane fakamatala fakapuleʻanga he konga ki muʻa ʻo e uike ní ʻoku ʻikai ha faingamālie ia ke tuʻu ha kasino ʻi Tonga pea ʻokú ne kei tuʻu pe heʻene lau ko iá.

    Ko ʻene fakamatala ko iá ne fai ia ki he ongoongo ʻa e Kanivá ʻi Hastings he pō Mōnité pea mau tuku ange mai ʻi he hengihengi Tūsité.

    Naʻe fakahoko ʻa e fakataha melino ko ʻení mo e kau taki lotú ʻi he loki hūʻanga ʻo e Holiday Inn, ʻi Mangere hili ia ha feinga ʻa e kau fononga mai ʻo e Palēmiá ke maʻu ha loki ke fai ki ai ka ne fakahā kuo fonu e hōtelé ia.

    Ko e kulupu ko ʻení ne tataki ia ʻe Faifekau Tēvita Fīnau ʻo e Siasi Metotisí, taki fakakominitī ko Sālote Heletā Lilo pea pehē kia Faifekau Tēvita ʻIloa Tuʻineau ʻo e Siasi Faka-ʻIngilaní.

    Ne nau tangi ki he ʻEiki Palēmia ke ʻoua naʻa fokotuʻu ha kasino ʻi Tonga.

    Ne kau atu foki ki he fakatahaʻangá ni ʻa e ongo sōtia tutuku ko Sione Tosi Kelekōlio Tapueluelu ko e angi ia ʻo e Kautaha ʻa e Kau Sōtia Tutuku Tonga ʻo ʻAokalani Lotolotó mo Tamale Faleafā ko ia ʻoku seá.

    Hili hono fakahū atu ʻenau tohi tangí ne talitali kinautolu ʻe he ʻEiki Palēmiá mo ne pehē te ne fakanounou mai pe ʻene tali kae toki ʻave ki Tonga ke ʻomi ha tali fakaʻōfisi ʻa e kapinetí.

    Heʻikai ke fokotuʻu ha kasino ʻi Tonga, ko e meʻa ia ʻa e ʻEiki Palēmiá.

    Ne kamokamo pe kau mēmipa ʻo e kulupu ke fakahāʻaki ʻenau tali e fakanounou ʻa e ʻEiki Palēmiá.

    Kae kimuʻa ke aʻu ange ʻa e kulupú ne fakahā ʻe he ongoongo ʻa e Kanivá ki he ʻEiki Palēmiá ne hili ʻemau tuku ange atu he Tūsité ʻo fakahā ʻene meʻa ʻo pehē ʻe ʻikai tuʻu ha kasino ʻi Tongá ne mau maʻu ha ngaahi fakamatala fakapepa ne ʻomai hangatonu ki he Kanivá ʻoku ʻasi ai ha tohi ngali ʻoku fepaki ia mo ʻene taukave kuo tuku mai kau ki he kasinó.

    Ko e tohi ko iá ʻa ia ne hā hangē tofu nai ko ha faʻu ʻe he Minisitā Paʻangá Tēvita Lavemaau ʻi he ʻaho 24 Nōvema 2016 ne pehē ai kuo ʻosi tali ʻe he puleʻangá ha kole mei he Kautaha Red Warrior mei ʻAmelika mo hono vaʻa ʻi Tonga ko e Tavake Tamafuá ke langa ha kasino ʻi Tonga.

    Ko e lau ʻeni ʻa e tohi ʻikai lava fakapapauʻi ko ʻení:

    ʻOku ou fie lave heni ki he tuʻutuʻuni e kapineti ʻa ʻEne ʻAfió fika 1104 ʻi Novema ʻaho 4 2016 ʻa ia ne tali ai e fokotuʻu ʻa e Tavake Tamafua Tourism Investment Project pea foaki mo e poupou kakato ki ai ʻa e puleʻanga ʻo Tongá.

    ʻOku ou fiefia ke fakahā atu ʻe foaki ʻe he puleʻanga ʻo Tongá mo fakapapauʻi atu ha totonu makahe ki ha laiseni ki ha kasino mo vaʻinga keimi maʻa e Red Warrior Group LLC ʻi he makatuʻunga kuopau ke ʻuluaki langa hano fale feʻunga ʻi Tonga ʻi he taʻu ʻe ua ka hoko maí.

    Kaekehe ne fakaʻikaiʻi ʻeni ia ʻe he Palēmiá mo ne pehē ne teʻeki tuʻo taha tali ʻe heʻene kapinetí ʻana ha kole ke langa ha kasino ʻi Tonga.

    Ne ne pehē ko e fuofua taimi ne ne sio ai he tohi kole kasino ʻa e kautahá ne hā nenefu e fakamatalá pea hangē ʻoku feinga kinautolu ne kolé ke tanu e moʻoni ko ʻenau taumuʻa ke kole ha ngofua ki ha kasinó ka ne heliakiʻi hono fakaleá naʻa ko ha meʻa ke tali ai.

    Ne ne fakahā leva ki he Minisitā ʻoku ʻi ai ʻa e kole ko ʻení ke toe fakaleleiʻi e meʻa fakapepa ko ʻení pea ke fakapapauʻi ka ai ha meʻa te nau tali ʻe ʻikai kau ai ha kasino.

    Ne toe talanoa foki ʻa e Kanivá ki he Sekelitali Pule ʻa e Puleʻangá kau ki he tohi ko ʻení ʻa ia ne ne toki hū ange taimi siʻi e kamata ʻa e fakatahá.

    Pehē ʻe Dr Palenitiná ʻe tatau ai pe pe ko e tohí ne fai ʻe he Minisitā Paʻanga he taimi ne kei Minisitā Kasitomu mo Leveniu aí pe ʻikai ko e meʻa pe te ne ala fakapapauʻí ne teʻeki ha tuʻutuʻuni ia ʻa e kapinetí ke pe ʻe ke fakangofua ha kasino ke tuʻu ʻi Tonga.

    Kuo mau kole kia Lavemaau ke ne fakapapauʻi mai pe ko e moʻoni pe ʻikai ko ia ne ne tohi mo fakamoʻoni he tohi ko ʻení . ʻOku teʻeki haʻane tali mai.

    Ka kuo pehē ʻe heʻene CEO ʻi he Kasitomu mo e Leveniú ʻa ia ne Minisitā ai ʻa Lavemaau ki muʻá, Kulufeinga ʻAnisi Bloomfield ʻoku fakatupu huʻuhuʻu kiate ia e fotunga ʻo e tohí.

    ʻOku kau foki ʻa Bloomfield ʻi he kōmiti siʻi ʻa e kapinetí ʻoku nau sivisiviʻi e kole pisinisi ko ʻeni ʻa e Red Warrior mo e Tavake Tamafuá.

    Ne ne pehē ko e fakatatau ki he founga ngāué ko ia ia ʻe tuʻutuʻuni mai ʻa e ʻEiki Minisitaá ke ne fai ha tohi pehē.

    ʻIkai ko ia pe ka ko e sila ʻo Tonga ʻoku ʻasi he letaheti ʻo e tohí ʻoku ʻikai tuʻutonu ia he vaeuaʻanga mālie ʻo e letahetí. ʻOku ngaʻeke ia ki toʻohema ʻo kehe mei he angamahení.

    Ne toe fakamamafaʻi mai ʻe Dr Langaʻoi ki he Kanivá ʻa e fakamatala ʻa Bloomfield ne fai ki he ʻaneafi kau ki he kole kasino ko ʻeni ʻoku fai ai ʻa e vālaú.

    ʻAia ne ne pehē ko e meʻa pe ʻe ua ne tali ʻe he puleʻanga Tongá he kole ʻa e Tavake Tamafuá. Ko e langa hotele mo e sōpingi fakatauʻanga koloa ki he kakaí ʻi malaʻevakapuna.

    Kae kimuʻa pea tali ʻa e ongo polōseki ko iá kuopau ke fakahū ange ʻe he kautaha ni ʻenau mape ki he langa ʻe faí ʻa ia kuopau ke muimui pau ki he lao langa ʻa Tongá.

    ʻIkai ko ia pe kuopau ke fakahū ange mo e fakamoʻoni ʻo hano tīpōsiti ʻo ha paʻanga pau ʻe fiemaʻu ʻe he puleʻanga ke fakapapauʻi ʻe malava ke fuaʻaki e langá.

    Pehē ʻe Bloomfield ʻoku teʻeki ha meʻa ʻe taha ʻe fakakakato ange ʻe he kautaha ni.