by Sioeli Mataitini Fotu
The struggle among Tongan leaders to find appropriate solutions to the current relation between the students of Tupou and Tonga Colleges
It is with sadness to read on Tongan newspapers, Online news and regularly heard the news bulletins on radios and TVs as to the latest problems in the historical relationship between Tupou and Tonga Colleges in Tonga. The latest problem was the pre-mediated assaulting of Tonga College’s boys by a busload of boys from Tupou College at a Tofoa home. Not only there were over 100 students from Toloa but the damages they made, according to Tonga Commissioner of Police, Mr Fee, have included every breakable item in that household and private property.
This has been bad news to every Tongans living overseas and it also portraying Tonga as a violent country. The country is trying to portray a good image overseas following the recent death of a policeman from New Zealand with Tongan origin at the hands of at least five local Tongan policemen. In the same vein Tonga College is not blameless having regard to the recent episode where a prefect was shown in full view for all the world to see the beating with all his strength a group of innocent boys.
I am also aware of the view expressed by the Secretary-General of the Conference of the Siasi Tautaina ‘o Tonga ‘I Tonga (SUTT), Dr Tevita Havea, in that he recommended the closure of both existing colleges and then merge them into one school. With respect to Dr Havea, I am aware of the historical significance of the two colleges to all Tongans and for that reason alone I do not share Dr Havea’s view. Tupou College was founded by Tupou I. His Majesty then specially requested the President and members of the Methodist Conference in New South Wales to allow the most eminent Rev. Dr Egan Moulton to be the first Principal of Tupou College in 1866. Dr Moulton was then the founding Principal of the Methodist’s Newington College in Sydney. The main aim of establishing Tupou College was to ensure that Tongan youths have a good education and also assisted in the spreading of the gospels around the Pacific neighbours and the world. On the other hand, the same King, Tupou I, and his Prime Minister and adviser, Rev. Shirley Baker, established Tonga College in 1882 as an attempt to ensure that Government sector of the Kingdom has a steady flow of workers. As an observer from overseas (ie New Zealand), I am proud of both Colleges with their history and their respective graduates who have contributed to the economy and the wealth of Tonga over the years. It is also important to have strong support from the ex-students of both Colleges who formed Associations in various overseas countries and these Associations have contributed moneys (and sometime goods and services) for the betterment of both Tupou College and Tonga College in Tonga respectively.
There are those who prefer the law to take its course. Rev. Siupeli Taliai, a former Principal of Tupou College, is said to prefer that approach. I respect him on that stand as the rivalry between the two established Colleges did resulted in some clashes during his tenure as the Principal of Tupou College. However, Rev. Siupeli Taliai did let the law take its course with some of those outlandish students from the respective Colleges moulded their behavior accordingly. There is nothing wrong with rivalry and clean competitions. Competitions in the sport fields or in the class rooms usually bring out the best in every student. This is quite healthy in a democracy like Tonga. With a bit of personal restraint, through tolerance and proper counseling, the students of both Colleges would realize their full potentials. That is what Tonga’s leaders wanted to see.
Proposed Actions to be Taken by the Government
Supposing the Government closes both Colleges and then starts a new College. This will be a bad decision as it destroyed a rich history tied to both Tupou and Tonga Colleges and the Kingdom as a whole. The strong supporters of both Colleges through the assistance and contributions by their former students will be sorely missed as there will be an instant stop to that regular flow of assistances and contributions. The new College, if establishes at all, will take years to establish itself and the creation of the networks of its graduates locally and internationally. This option is not a favourable one among both Colleges’ supporters both at home and overseas.
I argue also for the enforcement of the law to mould the behavior of these students. Those who have broken the law of the land should be punished according to the law of the land. The Constitution Act 1875 gives every the freedom or individual rights to everyone. The right to choose by parents where to send your children to study is also protected. Once the parents chose a school for their child then the State should protect that choice by enforcing the law to the full. The authority should investigate those accomplices that assisted with the planning of the attack should be dismissed from their jobs. The message should be clear and loud that the law of the land must prevail.
There are those who put forward an idea of forming a group who may ‘spy’ on those that will likely to start a fight between the students of these opposing Colleges. I think that this idea is against the law violating those individual rights that the Constitution is trying to protect. Once this idea is allowed then the State may interfere in the daily lives of all Tongans.
I have an idea and that is not new. How about the idea of having a Chaplain appointed by the respective Board of Trustees to both Colleges? I am referring here to those tutors that started Tonga College. They were anointed Ministers of the Church (ie Rev. Pauliasi Taumoepeau). My suggestion is that that a Tonga College graduated Minister (who has been schooled at Sia’atoutai also) must be appointed to Tupou College. Similarly, a Tupou College graduated Minister must be appointed as Chaplain to Tonga College. The students and members of the staff of both Colleges should consult these Chaplains during the time of personal crisis.
We have witnessed the value of these Chaplains in colleges and secondary schools here in New Zealand. They are invaluable.
If we keep on the dialogue about the future of these two established Colleges we may arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
My idea of appointing Chaplains to the two Colleges and the manner in which that they are selected is perhaps of lesser evil than a panel of selected people who will become ‘spies’ for the police, I guess.
Competition in the sporting fields and the classrooms do bring out the best from the students of both Colleges. It is a question of training oneself to keep ones composure even during adversity. It will then be a time that a student from either of the two established Colleges can be said to be educated and to have experienced God.Sioeli TuitaMataitini Fotu
Barrister and Solicitor
Former Student and Head Prefect of Tonga College
President of the Tonga College Old Boys in Aotearoa for 18 years and continuing.