Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva has hit back at reports that he told a press conference that “Chinese Businesses in Tonga did not pay any tax at all,” claiming his words were “twisted” in the media.
He also said reports that he said the Chinese would take over the country in the future were taken out of context.
Pohiva told Kaniva News in an interview in ‘Atalanga, Auckland, that what he told media was that a Chinese company, Yan Jian Group Co Ltd, did not pay any tax at all.
“I did not mean all the Chinese businesses in Tonga did not pay tax,” the Prime Minister said.
“That was not true.”
The company has operated in Tonga since 2009 as the principal contractor on a major roads improvement scheme with the aid of the Chinese Government
Hon. Pōhiva said he was surprised when it was revealed in a recent court case that the former government had agreed to allow the Yan Jian Group not to pay any taxes.
The revelation was made during a Land Court hearing in which the judge ordered Lord Nuku and the Yan Jian Group Co Ltd to pay the current Lord Luani TP$5,556,000 in compensation for a dispute over a block of land in Malapo.
Lawyer Sione Fonua, who acted for Lord Luani, told Kaniva News the Chinese company did not pay taxes and did not file any annual returns with Inland Revenue because of its agreement with the former government.
It has been estimated the company was given TP$80 million for the project.
Regarding reports that Hon. Pohiva had said the Chinese would take over the country, he said he emphasised that only those who were working hard would control the country.
He said he then referred to the hard-working Chinese as an example.
He said his comments had been wrongly portrayed as if he was having a conspiracy with the Chinese or he was supporting them to take over the country.
Hon. Pōhiva was responding to a report by Matangi Tonga Online, which reported:
“He said he had a meeting with representatives of the Chinese community and learned that during the past few years “Chinese Businesses in Tonga did not pay any tax at all”.
“This was a shocking revelation by the PM, taking into consideration that about 90% of all small shops in Tonga are run by Chinese.
The revelation by the PM that Chinese businesses in Tonga did not pay any taxes during the past few years, and that he thinks the Chinese are going to run the country during the next few years, was received with incredulity by the media present”.
Hon. Pōhiva said reports quoting him as saying the Chinese would take control of the country in the next few years was misreported.
He said he only referred to the Chinese as an example because he had seen a report that Tongan civil servants’ commitment to working the country only contained 20 percent of their efforts in comparison with Chinese workers who were committed 80 percent.
He said he reminded the press conference that he believed in one of the oldest economic policies in the world; the passage in Genesis in which God tells Adam: “By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread.”
He said the Chinese were working hard and expanded their business activities from shops to the tax allotments and grew vegetables and sold them to make money while many Tongans did nothing.
He said if the Tongans could not stand up and work hard like the Chinese there was no way they could beat them in controlling the economy of the country.
Below is what Hon. Pōhiva said in a tape record in Tongan which is written verbatim with an English translation.
“E pule’i e fonua ko ‘eni ‘e he kakai ngāué. Ko ia pe ‘oku ngāué ko ia ia ‘oku pule. He’ikai te ke mohemohe koe pea ke ha’u ko e ke ke pule. Ne ‘osi fai e savea ki ai pea ko e savea ‘oku peheni. Ko e ‘avalisi ko e ngāue ‘a e kau ngāue fakapule’anga peseti pe ‘e 20. Pēseti pe ‘e 20 honau ‘atamai mo honau ivi mo ‘enau commitment ‘oku ‘ave ki he ngāué. Siaina pēseti ‘e 80 ‘o fai ki ‘olunga. Tala mai angé pe ko hai ‘e pule he fonua ko ‘eni? ‘E lava e pēseti ‘e 20 ʻo langa e fonua ko ʻení. No! ‘Ai ke mahino ki hotau ‘atamaí pea tau tala ki he kakaí ‘a e me’a ‘e hoko ‘i he kaha’ú. ‘Oku fai ‘emau fakataha mo e kau Siainá. Fai mau fakataha ke mau talatalanoa ki he kaha’u o e fonuá he ‘oku ‘ilo ‘emautolu ‘a e me’a te tau iku ki aí. (Fakatatau ki he foʻi tepí ne hū hake heni e tokotaha ngali ko e ʻētita ʻo e Matangi Tongá Pesi Fonua ʻo lea atu ki he Palēmiá) “Mou fa’ufa’u moutolu ke mou take over ‘emoutolu ‘eni (Hū e kata). (Ka ʻi he tali ʻa Pōhivá ne ne pehē) ‘Ikai ko ʻemau ‘uhinga eni ʻamautolu ke vahevahe mai he ko kinautolu te nau pulé. Heʻikai ke hoko ia. Ko e tali atu ia ʻa e tokotaha ko ení. Heiʻilo koe mo hoʻo tali ki aí ka ko e anga ʻeni ʻemau sió ʻamautolu.
“This country will be controlled by people who work. Those who work will rule. You would not sleep and wake up to come and rule. There was a survey and the result was this. The work done by the civil servants were 20 percent in average. Their ideas their energy, they committed to work only 20 percent. The Chinese was 80 percent and over. Tell me who will control this country? Could this country be built by the 20 percent? No! Make it clear to our mind and let’s tell the people what will happen in the future of this country. We have a meeting with the Chinese. We are meeting to talk about the future of the country as we know what we would end up with”
A reporter, apparently Matangi Tonga editor Pesi Fonua interrupted while Hon. Pōhiva was talking and asked the Prime Minister: “Are you (‘Akilisi and the Chinese) plotting to take over this country?” (laughing).
But the Prime Minister said: “No. We are meeting to ask them to share with us because they will take control I tell you.”
“That won’t happen,” the reporter replied.
“It’s up do you, but I am telling you it will happen,” the Prime Minister said.
The main points
- Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pohiva has hit back at reports that he told a press conference that “Chinese Businesses in Tonga did not pay any tax at all,” claiming his words were “twisted” in the media.
- He also said reports that he said the Chinese would take over the country in the future were taken out of context.
- Pohiva told Kaniva News in an interview in ‘Atalanga, Auckland, that what he told media was that a Chinese company, Yan Jian Group Co Ltd, did not pay any tax at all.
- The revelation was made during a Land Court hearing during which Lord Nuku and the Yan Jian Group Co Ltd were ordered to pay the current Lord Luani TP$5,556,000 in compensation for a dispute over a block of land in Malapo.
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