The king’s decision to investigate and prosecute any breaches of law by some Cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, has mirrored the same advice PM ‘Akilisi Pōhiva gave to the petitioners last month.
The petitioners accused the Prime Minister and other Ministers of his cabinet of abusing their powers, breaching the law and corruption.
They demanded the king immediately shut down Parliament and establish an interim government.
They also demanded His Majesty establish a royal commission to investigate the government.
PM Pohiva’s response
In his response on February 22 which was sent to Kaniva and other local news media, the Prime Minister said he accepted any criticisms against him, but wanted these criticisms to be factual, accurate and in good spirit.
He recommended the petitioners complain to the Ombudsman, Police, Auditor General or take legal action against any cabinet ministers they accused.
In Tongan the statement said:
“Ko hono ‘uhinga ia ‘oku toutou kole atu ai ‘e ‘Eiki Palemia kia kinautolu na’a nau fa’u ‘a e Tohi Tangi ke nau launga’i ‘a e kau Minisitaa ‘oku nau tukuaki’i kuo nau maumau’i ‘a e Konisitutone pe ko e lao ‘o e Fonua ki he ngaahi sino Ma’u Mafai faka-lao.”
This translates into English as: “This was why the Prime minister regularly asked the petitioners to lodge their complaints with proper government authorities against the Ministers whom they claimed breached the laws of the nation.”
The petitioners accused the Prime Minister of breaking the law and claimed he had declared in Parliament that he was above the law. They also accused the Prime Minister over the Popua national park project.
The petitioners accused the former Minister of Public Enterprises Poasi Tei of importing building materials from China for his own use through containers that belonged to a private company which built a solar farm at Matatoa. They claimed it was planned that after the building was completed it would be rented out to a former CEO of the Tonga Power Ltd for TP$10,000 a month.
The petitioners told the king this was very expensive in comparison with Tonga’s renting rates.
The petitioners also accused Deputy Prime Minister Sēmisi Sika of not paying taxes for 20 years. It also alleged that the Ministry of Revenue attempted to take legal action against Hon. Sika, but that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Revenue intervened.
They claimed the unpaid taxes of the Deputy Prime Minister were worth more than TP$ 1 million.
The petitioners also accused the Minister of Trade and Economic Development, Hon. Tu’i Uata of threatening Ports Authority staff.
They also alleged Hon. Uata temprarily suspended his Ports Authority CEO, Mosese Lavemai, after Lavemai ordered the recovery of an outstanding payment of $400,000 by the Uata Shipping Line, a company belonging to Hon Uata’s parents.
The petitioners said the allegations indicated that there were bad governance, nepotism and, dishonesty and illegal actions by the top leaders of the country.
PM denies allegations
The February responses from the Prime Minister’s office denied all the accusations raised in the petitions.
The Prime Minister said the statement in Parliament to which the petition referred, came from what he said in a letter in 1994 to then Attorney General Tevita Tupou. Tupou demanded he apologise after he made a statement about the late King Taufa’ahau, saying he was “a dictator” and accusing him of “financial legerdemain” over the proceeds of sales of Tongan passports to foreigners and revenues of Tongasat.
Pōhiva refused to apologise and a court decision later freed him.
Hon. Pohiva also said in his response to the petitoners there were people in history who lived in societies which had laws, but who breached those laws because they had mission for the people which was more important than those laws. He said the Biblical figure Daniel, who was sent to the lions, was an example as were Martin Luther King Jr in the United State and Mahatma Ghandi of India.
In response to the accusation against the Prime Minister over the Popua Park projects, the Prime Minister said the Auditor General had already dealt with the matter and found the Prime Minister had not breached any laws.
In response to the accusation against Hon. Tei, the Prime Minister said the Chinese company did not give any building materials to Hon. Tei and he did not have any rental house whatsoever.
“The house where Hon. Tei is currently living with his family was built before Hon. Tei was elected to Parliament,” the Prime Minister replied in Tongan.
In his response to accusations made against Hon. Uata, the Prime Minister said the decision to suspend the Authority’s CEO was made by its Board of Directors not the Minister.
Hon. Pōhiva also said the Ports Authority took Uata Shipping to court after it failed to pay its outstanding debts.
The Supreme Court ordered the Authority to sell two vessels belonging to the Uata Shipping Line to help pay off their debts. However, the Authority and the shipping company later met and agreed that Uata would repair its two vessels and operate them so they could make money that would help them pay back their debts.
With regards to the allegation that Hon. Uata had threatened Port Authority staff, the Prime Minister said he had yet to receive any complaint against the Minister.
In response to accusations about the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Pohiva said the Ministry of Revenue had issued a statement last year denying the accusation against Hon. Sika which was falsely reported on local media.
There were other accussations against the government raised in the petitions but Hon. Pōhiva said they had been dealt with by the Auditor General in its investigation following a petition submitted to Parliament last year.
In response to the petitoners, instead of desolving Parliament, the king ordered the Ombudsman, the Attorney General and the Police Commissioner to conduct an investigation and prosecute “where a prima facie case is established.”
The main points
- The king’s decision to investigate and prosecute any breaches of law by some Cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, has mirrored the same advice PM ‘Akilisi Pohiva gave to the petitioners last month.
- The petitioners accused the Prime Minister and other Ministers of his cabinet of abusing their powers, breaching the law and corruption.
- They demanded the king immediately shut down Parliament and establish an interim government.
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