Shock at Deputy Vaipulu’s threatening text amid airline row

TONGA: The president of the Vava’u Business Chamber, Ian Jones expressed shock after he received a text message sent from Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga’s  ipad, Hon Samiu Vaipulu stating  that he can only discuss with them their concerns over the withdrawal of Catham Pacific domestic airline service from Tonga just on the basis that their tax returns for the last five years be filed.

Last week the president has warned the government against  its purchase of two aircrafts from China that prompted Catham airline to pull out in March 2 saying that it would bring a disaster to Vava’u’s businesses.

Matangitonga Online reported that Ian stated that , “The events that have led to this situation are most concerning and we as a community are distressed by the actions that have now developed into this totally unsatisfactory situation.”

He said that his email “had been widely circulated but it was not  released publically or with the approval of the Vava’u Business Chamber,” and the first response was “reasonable”.

The response said that, “”There will be no breakdown on the domestic air service it will be continued as usual, and new strategies are in place we will provide you with all information in the very near future and websites and all within this week we will announce the way forward but please be patient and continue with your normal business.”

But a second response not long after he got home “shocked” him.

It was a text message sent from Samiu Vaipulu’s iPad and it read: “Dear All, I would like to see a copy of all Vavau Business Chamber members tax returns for the past 5 years if any of you could not get it and please authorise me to get it for you and we will start talking only to those that paid tax in the past 5 years,” says the response.

Tourism destination affected:

Ian told Matangitonga that “ there are about 25 businesses in the Chamber and already in the last week they had reported over T$100,000 lost in tourism cancellations due to the expected disruption in the air services.”

“Many of us are new to Tonga and now we are also worried that our visas might not be renewed,” he said.

He appealed for the government “to take strong, considered and affirmative action without delay. We request that you keep us advised on you actions and plans.”

“We need strong leadership and clear communication to all stakeholders about what is happening and what is being done to resolve this issue.

“We need to be able to address this with the people that have booked with us and are now considering cancelling their holiday to Tonga in favor of a more stable and reliable destination. We need to give them confidence in Tonga and a destination.

“We are a business community offer you our assistance. We wish to be a part of the solution. Please feel free to seek our assistance in helping to avert this pending disaster,” Ian said.

Chatham airline currently the only domestic carrier in the Kingdom will cease its service on March 2nd after learning that the government purchased two aircrafts from China to compete with them.

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