Police Minister defends gov’t stance on Sunday Trading ban; Cyclone Gita becomes category 4

Kuo a'u 'eni 'a e mālohi 'o e saikolone ko Gita ki he katekōlia (category) 4 pea 'oku fakafuofua te ne taa'i e 'otu Tonga mei he Tonga hahake 'i ha houa 'e 12 mei heni. Pea kuo fakahā 'e he Minisitā Polisi 'oku ne tui ne taimi lahi pe 'a hono talaki 'o e fakatokanga matangi pea ke teuteu 'a e kakai ki ai talu mei he Falaite kae tuku ange pe 'a hono tauhi 'o e 'aho tapu ke kei tu'u pe 'oua na'a ava ai ha fale koloa. Kuo tu'utu'uni ke tāpuni e ngaahi ako 'a e pule'anga pea ngali 'e tu'u pehē foki mo 'ene ngaahi potungāue 'e ni'ihi.

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Kingdom of Tonga. Photo/Kalino Lātū

Tonga’s Minister of Police Māteni Tapueluelu said Police forced a hardware supplier to close down yesterday Sunday 11 for breaching the country’s Sabbatical laws.

The Minister said Pacific Timber and Hardware “opened without permission this morning and we had it closed down.”

His response came after Kaniva News reported yesterday two hardware suppliers opened temporarily for the public but they had no permits to do so.

“The people have had plenty of warning since Friday and shops will open again at midnight for people to stock up on food and water,” Hon. Tapueluelu said in an email.

“My concern if we opened all shops we might invite problems with alcohol sales which will become a law and order issue, which we don’t need before the cyclone hits sometime midday onwards tomorrow.”

Hon. Tapueluelu said he has briefed the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Hon. Poasi Tei on the matter.

Debates

The public is divided on whether the government’s stick to its Sunday Trading ban law makes the Tongans safer or protects Christian values.

“On one hand, the risk of businesses opening at last minute threatens the safety of customers traveling to and fro….. On the other hand, if it’s been declared a state of emergency then yes – speed that process up so people can hurry home to protect their families and properties!” a Facebook commentator wrote.

“Should open after 12 midnight tonight to allow people to buy what they need. Poor management everywhere in Tonga. There should be a law that allows people to shop on a Sunday in case of an emergency,” another wrote.

“It was good to close it down  because they breached Sunday taboo. Respect God first,” one commentator wrote.

“Where were all these people on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They should have had everything they needed to prepare for the cyclone before Sunday.”

“Keep the Sabbath holy.”

However some have questioned why some restaurants and bars were allowed to operate on Sundays.

Government closes down

Meanwhile the Ministry of Education has announced that all its schools in Tonga will be closed until further notice because of the severe weather.

“A notice to all government schools in Tonga – please be advised that the Hon. Acting Minister of Education and Training, Hon. Sēmisi Sika has directed that all government schools in Tonga be closed on Monday, 12th February, 2018 due to Cyclone Gita.”

All government staff should expect contacts from their respective Ministers and CEOs if there was a decision to close down their offices.

All District officers and Town officers have been advised to check their respective districts and towns for people and elderly who may need assistance during the cyclone.

Category 4

Cyclone Gita, now rated a Category 4 “severe” storm, is expected to slam into south east Tonga within the next 12 hours.

The extremely powerful and rapidly strengthening tropical cyclone is bearing down on Tonga’s islands of ‘Eua, Ha’apai, Vava’u and Tongatapu.

Tonga Met service said this morning Monday 12 at 2am the cyclone was located near 21.4 south 169.6 west or  540km east of the main island Tongatapu or 490km east-southeast of Lifuka at 01:00am this morning.

The cyclone is expected to have average winds of 80 knots possibly increasing to 95 knots by 7:00pm this evening.

The cyclone is moving west-southwest about 10 knots, it said.

“Very destructive hurricane force winds are expected from this evening.”

For more information:

Police shut down hardware shops as destructive hurricane bears down on Tonga

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