PGC should immediately take the Games to another country, writes Tongan Olympic metallist Paea Wolfgramm

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 Regretfully I must intrude into your day, and reluctantly make a further comment on the sad saga that is the 2019 Pacific Games (PG2019).

I am compelled to write due to the ongoing campaign in Tonga and overseas, through social, and regular media outlets,  supporting the contention that the Games should still be held in Tonga. It seems to me, there is a deliberate polarising of the country in the  hope of somehow changing the cabinet decision. There is division in Tonga, but what share goes to which side, is unknown. What is known is that our nation is hurting. A nation divided, is a nation broken. If you are happy for this to happen, then you cannot readily say you are doing it for the good of the nation.

Therefore, this is an appeal directly to Lord Sevele, his supporters, as well as to the PGC, in the person of President Lakhan. I am being particular, because it is clear that the Government, via cabinet decision has unequivocally forfeited hosting rights. You are all aware of my general position in terms of Tonga not being unprepared to embrace the promise of 2019. Disturbingly, the purported counter view through the media of Lord Sevele supporters, is that riches, both material and spiritual will be poured onto our nation if we continue to host. Which is naive, if not spuriously misleading.

It is well known I have criticised TASANOC in the past for treating sports development like a lottery ticket. It is my opinion that they have done little more than pray for future Olympic medalists to walk through their door. I have come to think they have applied the  same practice with 2019. It is a selfish motive for them to continue with this narrative to sell the nation what amounts to a mere ‘lottery’ ticket. Even if were to be held, I firmly believe that 2019 is unlikely to bring any change now. I say that, for no more reason then the  evidence manifested in front of us. I suggest that we should only host as a celebration in the achievement of change, not in the hope of it.

On a personal level, I was deemed a ‘spearhead’ in the host bid effort in 2012. By 2015, I saw how Tonga was struggling with its commitment. I felt personal responsibility for bringing 2019 to Tonga, so I gave up my career, and its security to my family to be based in Tonga. Unfortunately, for little reward.  So, I will offer any of the above mentioned supporters, to count their wounds and sense of loss against mine in its cancellation. But, more importantly to me, as it should be for all, is the unity of our country

However, that in and of itself is not to deny the prerogative of Lord Sevele and supporters to continue their campaign. But they should consider they are causing greater harm and hurt for Tonga, when there is the choice and opportunity, to help heal our nation. They should also consider, Tonga cannot hold a “People’s Games,” if half our people are against it, let alone the Government.  Thereby, making the Games into an empty gesture held with a hollow spirit.  No Tongan athlete should be asked to perform under that circumstance.

If this is about patriotism, as is often quoted in the media.Then what greater act is there then to put our Nation before oneself, accept the cabinet decision and work for our healing and unity to begin.

Finally, I would also ask the PGC by way of personal appeal to President Lakhan, to immediately take the Games to another to host,  According to the media there is a line of countries eager to “take advantage of this, rare economic opportunity”. Director Minogue, and yourself have always said to me, that the good of Tonga is always a priority for the PGC. Sir, I hope you see that Games slow removal, albeit well meaning, is further contributing to my nation’s pain, and I ask that the PGC make that move as soon as possible. President Lakhan, it will be your decisive action in removing the games that is also needed for Tongas healing to begin.

As for future opportunities to host. I say that our point of difference has always been that we are a region with familial ties, and family always forgive, so I am certain, that the Games will return in future, and we will host and be very successful. Under those same ties of kinship I do not believe in the matter bandied in the media that the PGC will seek legal redemption, because of the Tongan Government reneging its obligation. I am sure you already understand this, so it is likely to be idle talk. But I advise as a believer in the Pacific Games concept, that any legal redress will hurt the PG brand more than Tonga, if at all.

Again, I apologise for my intrusion and for any unintended offence. But if you had ever been privileged to fight under our flag…then you would have ,heard the phrase below from our late boxing boss, Sione Ma’ilei; ‘He who serves the country, commits no crime, nation before self”.

Respectfully and humbly yours,

Paea Wolfgramm

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