Muddle in Parliament as MPs move to elect deputy Speaker

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Speaker of Parliament Lord Fakafanua (L) and Deputy Speaker Lord Tu'ilakepa

Parliament was briefly deadlocked this evening as the House was told to elect the Deputy Speaker.

New Deputy Speaker Lord Tu’ilakepa challenged the Democrats after they did not support a motion for him to be the Deputy.

“What happened “kau fakafofonga” (Democrats representatives)?” Lord Tu’ilakepa asked in the House.

The Member for Ha’apai 12 asked the Interim Speaker if it was possible to allow the Democratic Party members to see the king about the nobles’ refusal to accept their motion about who they wanted to become Deputy speaker.

He appeared to stand by the fact that the Democrats had reclaimed power and held the majority in the House after Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva was re-elected Prime Minister, therefore they have the right to decide who should be the Deputy.

At one stage outgoing Finance Minister Tevita Lavemaau scolded one of the MPs for interrupting while he was speaking in support of the nobility.

Hon. Lavemaau told the MP he did not want to be interrupted while he was speaking.

Hon. Lavemaau urged the Democrats to agree with the nobility and elect Lord Tu’ilakepa to become the Deputy.

Motions

The Democrats began moving motions for the Deputy position after Education Minister Penisimani Fifita moved for Lord Fakafanua to become the Speaker.

His motion for the Speaker was seconded and all MPs unanimously agreed.

He then moved for Lord Vaha’i to become the Deputy, but the noble turned down his proposal,  saying he did not have the experience to take the post.

Lord Nuku moved for Lord Tu’ilakepa to be the Deputy and was seconded.

The Democrats pushed further and moved for Lord Tui Ha’angana, Lord Tu’i’afitu and Lord Nuku, but the trio rejected it saying they respected the motion for Lord Tu’ilakepa.

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva finally spoke on behalf of his Party and told the Interim Speaker they supported Lord Tu’ilakepa to become the Deputy Speaker.

Because no other candidates were seconded for the post, Lord Tu’ilakepa then, according to the constitution, became the Deputy Speaker.

Lord Tu’ilakepa

On December 17, 2011, the Sydney Morning Herald, citing Australian Federal Police, reported that a Colombian drug syndicate allegedly bribed the then Speaker of the Tongan Legislative Assembly, Lord Tu’ilakepa, to sponsor a Colombian drug boss to come to the Pacific island.

“The drug boss, Obeil Antonio Zuluaga Gomez, wanted to direct an alleged operating hub from Tonga and oversee cocaine shipments,” the Herald reported.

“Despite having never met Gomez, Lord Tu’ilakepa wrote that he would ”guarantee that I will be providing the necessary housing and financial support to this person [Gomez] and take full responsibility for him during the duration of his stay.”

“I can also vouch that the aforementioned is an honest, trustworthy and law abiding person.”

Gomez has been previously imprisoned for drug trafficking.

As a result of raids prompted by the Australian investigation, Lord Tu’ilakepa was charged with drugs and weapons offences.

The charges were dropped in 2013. The then Solicitor General, ‘Aminiasi Kefu, said this was because the case was complex and because key evidence gathered from telephone interceptions was done outside of Tongan law.

Earlier this year Lord Tuʻilakepa claimed in Parliament that his application for a visa to the United States had been declined because Hon. Pohiva  had reported on him adversely to the US embassy.

Elections

Today’s elections took about nine hour, starting at 10am to about 7pm.

The media were allowed to sit in the House, but were told to leave before the secret ballots for the Prime Minister, the Speaker and their Deputy.

The whole programme however was broadcast live on radio.

Before closing the House, Interim Speaker Lord Tangi ‘o e Vaonukonuka thanked for the MPs for the excellent work they did today to make complete the election process.

For more information

‘Akilisi Pohiva is Prime Minister of Tonga until 2021

Lord Tuʻilakepa accuses Prime Minister of bad mouthing him to US embassy

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