Two bills setting up real democracy for Tonga were submitted to Parliament in July proposing to allow people to elect the Prime Minister and the Nobles but fell at the first hurdle.
A Private Bill proposing for the people to elect the Prime Minister, by MP ‘Aisake Eke, Tongatapu 5 was defeated in Parliament Thursday 24 at its first reading, 15 votes to 6.
A Private Bill provided for voters to elect nobles’ nine seats in parliament, by MP Mo’ale Finau in the name of Ha’apai 12 has been returned for further review.
Both bills were supported by the people of various constituencies according to a report submitted to the Tongan Parliament.
PM to be elected by the people
The deputy Prime Minister Hon. Samiu Vaipulu claimed the bill was deliberately proposed because some of the Opposition Party craved power to lead the nation.
Hon. Siosifa Tu’utafaiva, the Minister of Police, who had crossed the floor from the Democratic Party to the government plainly revealed his objection to the bill saying he was suspicious about the ethics involved.
The Speaker of the Full House Committee summed up the debates against the bill by nobles and ministers of government into a question he put forward to MP Eke.
Speaker MP Sunia Fili asked Eke in Tongan: “Please Honourable Member of Parliament, the point is, those who debated against the bill questioned whether there was any ‘evil spirit’ that helped guide you while you initiated the bill?”
There were also claims from the government that they wanted to see the bill has the supports of the people of various constituencies.
Responses from opposition
MP Eke in his reply pointed out the spirit that helped guide him while he was drafting the bill emanated from the fact the government in the last three years came through various adversities.
He figuratively compared the government to a ship that travelled on the sea. Throughout its times in power the ship leaked, he said. There were times the ship apparently had rammed into reefs, and thankfully the ship steered towards other reefs but managed to escape, he added.
MP Eke then indirectly reminded the House the bill if passed would safeguard future governments and prime ministers, from misusing their position and power.
MP ‘Isileli Pulu responded to the accusation by the government that the bill did not have the support of the constituents.
Pulu told the House the people of various constituencies including MP Eke's expressed their approval of the bill for voters to elect the Prime Minister when parliamentarians met them during the 2013 Parliamentary Visit.
He reminded the House the meetings were recorded and it would be read to the Parliament.
MP Eke also submitted a proposal that a care taker government should be put in place to rule the country during next year's election and until a new government is formed but was also rejected by the House.
He said, however it has been proved there were major problems arisen during the transitional period before the power was handed over to the current government and they were included in the NDC report submitted to the Parliament this year. Eke said those problems he referred to involved government positions and huge amount of public funds.
While the bill for the people to elect the nobles was debated in Parliament the government repeatedly pushed for the Speaker to put it into vote. The Minister for Finance, Hon Lisiate ‘Akolo asked the House to vote on two bills including MP Finau’s private bill and then would proceed with other matters.
But MP Finau immediately told the House that for obvious reasons, he feared to put his bill to a vote because it would definitely result in a defeat.
He said the nobles insisted that his bill would cause chaos in society but he instead believed the opposite. This was a law that would bring people and nobles together, MP Finau added.
Leader of the Opposition ‘Akilisi Pohiva joined in, and told the Speaker if they did then vote on the bill the government would definitely win and that would be the end of this important private bill.
He told the Speaker the push from government and nobility to vote on the bill reflected a dictatorial attitude in the House.
Pohiva’s claim that the government and nobility were dictatorial when they pushed for the bill to be voted knowing fairly well they would win, was quickly responded to by Minister for Finance Hon Lisiate ‘Akolo.
Hon ‘Akolo told the Speaker for Pohiva that what he claimed as dictatorship, was the result of democracy Tonga endeavoured to get and now has.
But Pohiva responded, that the current political system Tonga has is not a democracy because the people do not elect all the Member of Parliament. Hon. Akolo gave in and told the Speaker that was another issue to be discussed later.
Pohiva said if the House would vote on the bill proposed for the people to elect the nobles then they would be killing a baby that about to be born.
He poetically reminded the House in Tongan that, “this bill had been impregnated by the constituents of Ha’apai 12. They gave it to their MP to bring it along and show it to you (the Speaker and members of parliament), today we are going to abort it!”
MP Finau finally accepted a suggestion by the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Vaipulu to return his private bill for further review and return it to the House for discussion at a later date.