Tongan Parliament today October 1 has for the first time since the 2010 amended constitution came into use, became aware that Tonga’s constitution does not state a post of an acting prime minister to be in place if the Prime Minister and his deputy are at the sametime out of the country or become incapacitated.
Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano, 61, suffered a minor stroke after attending the 68th session of the General Assembly and is being hospitalised in the Bellevue Hospital in New York since September 28. He was reported to be “in an excellent condition”.
Kaniva understands the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Samiu Vailpulu is currently overseas on official business.
A source told Kaniva News Lord Maʻafu was given the duty to inform the House on Monday morning about the Prime Minister’s “minor stroke” since Maʻafu is the Head of Haʻa Havea Lahi (clan). Lord Tuʻivakanō is a member of this Ha’a. Another reason was that Lord Maʻafu is the most senior of the remaining cabinet ministers in the country.
Lord Maʻafu’s statements regarding the Prime Minister, however was followed by responses from Members of the House who began addressing him as the acting prime minister although it was not officially announced by the government.
The ʻacting prime minister’s issue’ was discussed in the House today after the Speaker, Lord Fakafanua gave advice that referring to Lord Maʻafu as the Acting Prime Minister was unconstitutional. This means the country was left without an official leader since the departure of the Prime Minister and his deputy.
Dr Halapua, Tongatapu 3 Representative argued that the country must have a leader at this stage. This has attracted further debate in the House that ended up with members carrying a resolution to designate Lord Maʻafu as a Minister-in-Charge. Lord Maʻafu in his new post would lead the nation until the Prime Minister returns.
Lord Ma’afu is the Minister for Lands, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources. He is the hereditary estate holder of Vaini Village.