10 Members of the Legislative Assembly have lost confidence in the PM, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva. And have signed a motion for a Vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister.
They include seven Noble Representatives, Lord Tu’ilakepa who tables the no confidence motion, Lord Tu’iha’angana, Lord Fusitu’a, Lord Tu’i’afitu, Lord Tu’iha’ateiho, Lord Nuku, Lord Vaea, and three People Representatives, Samiu Vaipulu, Vili Hingano and Fe’ao Vakata.
The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Lord Tu’ivakano received the notice of a no confidence motion on February 2.
There are four main accusations made against the Prime Minister. One is related to poor governance. Hon. Pohiva is being accused of nepotism and favoritism. This includes the appointment of his son, Po’oi Pohiva as his Personal Assistant. Yet the post was never advertised publicly.
It claims that Po’oi was not in the government payroll for his salary was from the PM’s pocket. According to the no confidence motion, it was clear from Po’oi’s official trips overseas in accompanying the PM, all travel expenses are financed from the public’s fund.
Another issue of concern which reflects the PM’s poor governance relates to the appointment of the Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet, Dr. Palenitina Langa’oi.
The selection process was brought into question since Dr. Langa’oi was the former PSC CEO and she was directly involved with coordinating the recruitment process policy.
The motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister also asserted that Langa’oi’s appointment was not in accordance with the PSC selection process and legislation.
It was also brought to light that Dr. Langa’oi’s appointment was made public while a pending court case between the PSC and former Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet, Busby Kautoke is yet resolved.
Viliami Taufa’s who was appointed as the PM’s political adviser was also questioned by the opposition. They question his expertise to act as the PM’s adviser yet he worked several years in New Zealand’s dairy industry.
Taufa was later transferred to the Livestock division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries at Tokomololo in December 2015. He is believed to continue using the Prime Minister’s Office vehicle. His salary as the political adviser for the PM remains the same while redeploying to Tokomololo.
The no confidence motion says that Taufa is a known columnist for the Kele’a newspaper, an independent newspaper founded by the Hon. Prime Minister. He is also a member of the Paati Temokalati ‘o e ‘Otumotu Anga’ofa (PTOA) party of Mr. Pohiva. With this appointment, the Prime Minister is being accused of favoritism and nepotism and that he misused his power to appoint his close associate to top jops in government. Yet their expertise is questioned by his opponents.
Other concerns were related to the appointments of officials to top notch government jobs is the appointment of former government officials with worse records in their previous jobs. The CEO of the Ministry of Inland Revenue ‘Anisi Bloomfield was former Head of Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO) in which Tonga is a member.
Reports from OCO, he was investigated for allegedly misused of funds up to $1 million Fijian dollar from the European Union (EU) project fund to pay for outstanding staff entitlements. Bloomfield was accused of failing to follow the procurement required procedures of the EU.
Another former civil servant ‘Eti Teumohenga who was dismissed from the Ministry of Lands and Survey for breaching of the Public Service Act is now being reinstated as the Deputy Secretary and Deputy Secretary to Cabinet.
The no confidence claim stated that Teumohenga is Dr. Palenitina Langa’oi’s close friend. Here, ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s Cabinet has been accused of allowing this to happen, especially employing staff with a bad job history. The opponents of the PM believe this is evident that Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva was not following the proper process and procedure which resulted in breaches of government legislation and the Constitution of Tonga.
Scandalising the Judiciary
In Judiciary matter, the Prime Minister is also accused of undermining its work. This relates to a letter he wrote to the Privy Council calling for the dismissal of the Acting Attorney General, who is also the Director of Prosecution for his role in Tu’ilakepa arms and ammunitions court case.
“This surely breaches the separation of power of the three branches of Government, the Legislature, Cabinet and Judiciary,” says the complainant.
According to the no confidence motion his (PM’s) action is a contempt of court for questioning the Judiciary’s integrity and independence. The opposition stated that scandalizing the Judiciary is an offense.
Tonga National Centre issue
In October 2014 the Court of Appeal ruled that former MP ‘Etuate Lavulavu and the ‘Unuaki ‘o Tonga Royal Institute vacates the Tonga National Centre complex in 28 days.
However, this was never the case in 2015 and 2016. The PM’s opponent says this is clearly a contempt of court.
They maintain that since 2010 Hon. Pohiva was actively voicing concerns on the need to return the Tonga National Centre to Government.
In 2009 Lavulavu took over the administration and the daily operation of the Tonga National Centre. However, it was noted in the no confidence motion, the property was never returned to Government in 2015 and early 2016.
It was because Lavulavu was in ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s Cabinet. Additionally, he also voted for Pohiva candidacy for the Prime Minister of Tonga.
The PM is also accused of lying to the nation that former Minister of Infrastructure and Tourism, ‘Etuate Lavulavu was penalized for five months without pay for not following the public procurement’s requirement in implementing projects in Vava’u. The PM’s remarks came when the House was debating a motion for an impeachment of Lavulavu last year.
The penalty for Lavulavu to work without pay was to be effective in January 2016. However, it was noted by the PM’s opponents, Lavulavu was in the public service payroll until he was dismissed from the tourism ministerial portfolio.
Concern onTonga diplomatic relations
The no confidence motion was also concerned about the Prime Minister’s action that will likely to impact Tonga’s diplomatic relations with overseas country. Last year, the Hon. Prime Minister made a statement criticizing Indonesia for violation of human rights during the United Nation’s 70th General Assembly’s meeting.
Indonesia responded that Tonga and the Solomon Islands’ remarks on the so called human rights issues in West Papua were inaccurate allegations … dangerously misleading and therefore should be corrected for the records.
His opponents believe such remarks are likely to tarnish Tonga’s relationship with the other countries. In a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office in October 2015, the PM maintains the world leaders should collaborate to fight corruption and violation of human rights like what is happening in West Papua in the Pacific.
The no confidence motion is to be discussed in Parliament no later than Monday next week.
Today the Legislative Assembly of Tonga was adjourned to allow time for the PM to submit his reply to allegations made against him in the no confidence motion.
Yesterday, the Speaker of Parliament, Lord Tu’ivakano said, although no such provision is provided in the House Rules, but it is out of consideration for the PM.
The Hon. Prime Minister thanked Parliament for the opportunity and reassured the House his reply will be submitted today.