Prime Minister-elect Pōhiv Tu'i'onetoa, Lawyer Williams Clive Edwards

Elected Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa has vehemently denied allegations that he breached his alleged agreement with the nobility before he won the premiership.

He also denied claims his new People’s Party was in disarray.

Hon. Tu’i’onetoa described the claims as blatant lies and said they were made to discredit the proposed cabinet.

The allegations were made by lawyer and former cabinet minister and MP William Clive Edwards Snr in a video panel he co-hosted with his political colleague, former MP and Cabinet Minister Sione Teisina Fuko. The 27-minute video was recorded in Tongan and posted to Facebook on Tuesday.

The allegations

Edwards alleged Tu’i’onetoa had caused problems by changing the agreement with the nobles.

He also accused Tu’i’onetoa of saying he did things as he please (“fa’iteliha pe ia”).

Edwards also alleged the Prime Minister-elect involved current Minister of Trade and Economic Developments Dr Tu’i Uata in the Party and the proposed government, even though the nobles did not want Dr Uata.

Edwards claimed this was a condition of the nobles’ support for Tu’i’onetoa.

Fuko alleged that Tu’i’onetoa proposed to appoint ‘Etuate Lavulavu as Vava’u governor.

He questioned the grounds of the proposal when Lavulavu had been disqualified from parliament since 2016.

Fuko accused Dr Uata and Lavulavu of not having the trust of the public.

Edwards claimed the nobles complained to him after Tu’i’onetoa complimented Lavulavu in a dinner at Kahana after the premiership election without giving credit to the nobility and the independents for their support.

Edwards said in Tongan that the proposed cabinet collapsed before its official appointment.

Fuko was also concerned at the appointment of ‘Akosta Lavulavu as Minister of Infrastructure in the proposed cabinet because she had a fraud case pending.

Tu’i’onetoa’s response

The Prime Minister-elect told Kaniva news the allegations were all untrue and there had  been  no such agreement with the nobles and the independent MPs.

He said his lawyers had analysed the video before beginning legal action against Fuko and Edwards.

Tu’i’onetoa said the People’s Party was still operating and supported the proposed government.

He claimed Edwards and Fuko wanted the party to be in disarray and collapse because of a personal agenda.

He said there was too much hatred in politics and attempts to put personal agendas first, but the constitution laid out what should be done.

Tu’i’onetoa described Edwards’ claim that he complimented ‘Etuate without thanking the nobility members as blatant lie.

In Tongan he said: “ Ko e [toe] tukuaki’i ko ia ‘oku loi mo ia, ko e fo’i loi ‘aupito ia.”

Tu’i’onetoa said he did not have dinner with the Party at Kahana after he won the premiership election. The dinner at Kahana was held before the premiership election.

He said the Party held a dinner after the premiership election at the Black Pearl and that was when he thanked the nobility party members by names for their support. He said he did not thank ‘Etuate personally on that occasion.

Tu’i’onetoa said Edwards should know the law better and understood that ‘Akosita was considered innocent unless proven guilty.

Governor appointment allegations

Tu’i’onetoa said he did not have any plan to appoint ‘Etuate Lavulavu as Vava’u governor.

He described  Edwards and Fuko’s allegations with the Tongan word “fakanāfala” – a slang coined for a hit by a batsman in cricket where he did not figure out a certain target for the ball. 

Tu’i’onetoa said he was currently working on the proposed cabinet’s election due process.

He would work on the appointment of governorships later.

The People’s Party

Tu’i’onetoa said two nobles were nominated by the nobility to represent them in the setting up of the People’s Party. They were Lord Nuku and Lord  Tu’ilakepa.

From the people’s MPs they were himself, Hon. Vuna Fā’otusia, Hon. ‘Akosita Lavulavu and MP Vātau Hui. The Independent MP was Tēvita Lavemaau.

He said the agreement with the nobles was that they were given three cabinet ministerial posts while seven ministerial posts were given to the people’s MPs. He said two ministerial seats were set aside to be elected from outside parliament.

But Minister of MEIDECC Poasi Tei later joined the Party, so he was given one of the two seats assigned for the two ministers outside parliament.

Hon. Tu’i’onetoa said the responsibility for electing and appointing of the cabinet minister was given by the constitution to the Prime Minister and king and no one else.

He said members of the People’s Party including constituents, town and district officers and church members helped the proposed cabinet’s public project priorities.

The main points

  • Elected Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa has vehemently denied allegations that he breached his alleged agreement with the nobility before he won the premiership.
  • He also denied claims his new People’s Party was in disarray.
  • Hon. Tu’i’onetoa described the claims as blatant lies and said they were made to discredit the proposed cabinet.

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