Is the devil really coming to Tonga? Confusion reigns as pastors and soldiers prepare protest

The Tongan church leaders’ committee in New Zealand is planning to protest alongside former Tongan army personnel in Auckland against what they believe are plans for a casino in the kingdom.

They will join call for Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pohiva to stop any move by his government to allow casino to be built in Tonga.

In a strongly worded letter, the protestors have told the government it has welcomed the devil into Tonga.

But there is confusion about whether the devil really is coming to the island kingdom, with different reports saying the casino has been approved, is pending or been rejected.

Requests for confirmation from the government have gone unanswered.

Protestors said Minister of Finance Hon. Tevita Lavemaau had been reported by Radio and Television Tonga as saying the government was going back on its decision to reject an application by an American gambling company to establish a casino in Tonga.

Reports last week quoted Radio Tonga as reporting that Hon. Lavemaau had said the government had only approved a development proposal, which would see hotels constructed in Tongatapu and Vava’u.

It is understood this was the second time the request by the Native American-owned casino and its Tongan partners had been rejected.

Casino and other forms of gambling are illegal in Tonga.

But yesterday afternoon, RNZ quoted Radio Tonga as reporting claims by Havea Gatti, one of the directors of Tavake Tamafua, the company making the application,  as saying they were near to completing the conditions required for a license.

The company claimed Hon. Lavemaau had written to them saying that government supported the initiative to establish a casino and would grant an exclusive right under conditions to build in Tonga within the next two years.

He conceded regulations still needed to be changed before a license was granted.

Requests for confirmation from the Custom and Revenue Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office have gone unanswered.

During a meeting in Onehunga, Auckland, yesterday afternoon members of the Tākanga ‘A e Kau Takilotu Tonga  ‘o Aotearoa agreed unanimously to back the move by the Tongan Ex-Army Association in New Zealand to submit a letter to Hon. Pohiva after he arrives in New Zealand tonight.

They agreed to support the move as a peaceful protest for the betterment of Tonga.

The letter said many Tongans in New Zealand fell into serious social and moral trouble because of gambling.

It said gamblers had lost their property, rejected religion, robbed and experienced marital problems.

“The government had welcomed a devil to stay in Tonga,” the letter said.

“This devil will destroy and consume everything in the nation, but it will never have enough.”

The church leaders formally agreed that Rev. Tevita Finau of the Medothist Church will join the group that will be allowed to meet with the prime Minister in ‘Atalanga next week.

They also agreed to formally respond and reply in support to the ex-servicemen’s letter.

Church leaders from the Bahai faith, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Free Wesleyan Church Upper Room, Tonga Methodist of New Zealand, Tonga United Church and Tonga Advisory Council were represented at the meeting this afternoon.

The letter was presented by the Patron of the Tongan Ex- Army Association Central Auckland  in New Zealand Rev Tevita Iloa Tuʻineau, Chairman Tamale Faleafa, Deputy Chairman Feleti Fonua and Campaigner Sionetosi Kelekolio Tapueluelu.

The main points

  • The Tongan church leaders’ committee in New Zealand is planning to protest alongside former Tongan army personnel in Auckland against what they believe are plans for a casino in the kingdom.
  • They will join call for Prime Minister Ê»Akilisi Pohiva to stop any move by his government to allow casino to be built in Tonga.
  • In a strongly worded letter, the protestors have told the government it has welcomed the devil into Tonga.
  • But there is confusion about whether the devil really is coming to the island kingdom, with different reports saying the casino has been approved, is pending or been rejected.

For more information

Tongan govt denies issuing gaming licence

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