Rugby League Pres responds after MMT missed church leaders’ prayer services

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Tonga floats for Mate Ma'a Tonga. Photo/Kalino Lātū

The President of the Mate Ma’a Tonga national Rugby League committee said the Church
Leaders who arranged a prayer service for the Mate Ma’a Tonga players yesterday did not
contact him.

It is understood only Tu’imoala Lolohea of the Mate Ma’a Tonga team attended the prayer service.

President Sēmisi Sika said the team came to Tonga after an invitation from the King to a
ceremony at the royal palace.

Hon. Sika said the programme was set to make sure the boys would also have enough time to meet their family and their rugby league supporters who could not go to New Zealand to
support the national team.

He said it was important for all sectors in the Tongan community to communicate with his
national committee which was working to ensure there were no clashes between functions
people wanted the team to attend.

He said Ma’a Tonga was a national team and it must be looked after in a way that ensured the nation as a whole would not be affected.

Hon. Sika said he has been involved in organising a number of national events in the past 30 years and the highlight was the coronation of the King Tupou VI in 2015.

He said yesterday’s programme went well and achieved its purposes.

“You can see kids and elderly walking and standing by the roads waving to show their
appreciation to the Mate Ma’a Tonga team players,” Hon. Sika said.

“I believe the venue was rightly picked to use central Nuku’alofa roads, allowing the public to parade and mixed and mingled on its main road with the players,” Hon Sika said.

He said the route meant there was plenty of parking on side roads in central Nuku’alofa and roads leading out of town for thousands of Tongan fans who attended the celebrations

He said the prayer service was held at the Centenary Church in Kolomotu’a which only held up to 500 people and not everyone could join the programme.

Yesterday’s programme

The president told Kaniva News this morning he was only made aware of the Church Leaders’ prayer service programme on Tuesday night when they were at the Tanoa Hotel.

He said the prayer service had not been included in the official programme for the Mate Ma’a Tonga.

He said he told those who made him aware of the prayer service they could not change the
programme with only a few hours’ warning because it had been already announced to the
public.

Hon. Sika said the team were in Tonga at His Majesty’s invitation and he thought anything else could come second or be disregarded.

“I have no problem at all with religion and churches,” Hon. Sika said.

“But in New Zealand we prayed from time to time together with the team.

“The nation had prayed for the team and for us officials

“The team’s families around the world were praying for their sons who represented us in the Rugby League World Cup

“The churches’ and church leaders around the world were also praying for us,” Hon Sika said.

“I thought those were enough.”

Time with supporters

Hon. Sika said he thought while the Ma’a Tonga players were in Tonga this week they should use their limited time for their supporters.

He said the prayer service could run for up to two hours and the team members had to prepare to go to the Palace at 4pm.

He said he was extremely happy to see so many young people following the floats yesterday vying to attract the attentions of the Mate Ma’a Tonga players.

“They are the future of the sport and I have no doubt these kids had been really inspired by the Mate Ma’a Tonga players,” Hon. Sika said.

Denial

Hon. Sika has rejected information circulated on Facebook saying Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva stopped the MMT players from going to the prayer services.

Hon Sika said he was the one who made the decision and it was the best for everyone.

He said the celebrations went really well and there were no fights.

“People were happy up to last night’s block party which was meant for the MMT players and
their families,” Hon. Sika said.

Church Leaders’ office in Nuku’alofa could not be reached for comment.

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