Tongan independents want government led by the people; could propose own candidate for PM

The independent members of Tonga’s Parliament want a government led by a Prime Minister from their ranks and not from the nobility.

But they have made it clear they will talk to the nobles as well as the Democratic Party to secure their objective.

Last night seven of the independents, including Siaosi Sovaleni (Tongatapu 3), Poasi Tei (Tongatapu 6), Viliami Hingano Manuaopangai (Ha’apai 12), Dr Saia Ma’u Piukala (Vava’u 14), Samiu Vaipulu (Vava’u 15), ‘Etuate Sungalu Lavulavu (Vava’u 16) and Sosefo Fe’ao Vakata (Niua 17), met to discuss the issue.

Independent Sione Vuna Fa’otusia, who signed the Democratic Party’s MOU last week, did not attend the independents’ meeting last night because he now stands with the party.

The independent MPs at the meeting said they wanted a government led by the people that was supported either by the nobles or the Democrats.

They said they held the balance of power and if ‘Akilisi Pohiva and the Democrats did not want to compromise and accept what they wanted, they would seek the nobility’s help.

The independents said it was too early for the Party to say that the independents had agreed to take up the potential ministerial posts they were offered by Pohiva.

The independents said they put Pohiva and the Democratic Party first on their agendas because they wanted the numbers to support a Prime Minister chosen by the people’s elected MPs.

When asked if they had a Prime Ministerial candidate in mind, Fe’ao Vakata, ‘Etuate Lavulavu and Saia Piukala told Kaniva News they were still discussing the issue as they wanted to hear from the nobles and the Democrats first.

They were scheduled to meet with the nobles at 10am today (December 2) and tomorrow (Decvember 3) with Pohiva and the Party.

A total of nine elected MPs declared themselves as independents before the election, but the number decreased to seven after Dr ‘Aisake Eke declared he would still support the Democrats and Sione Vuna Fa’otusia signed the Party’s MOU.

What the Independents want

The independent MPs said they wanted to work with Pohiva but did not want him and his Party to dictate what they should do. They said they were not elected as Party members and they fought a hard battle in trying to defeat the Party’s contestants during the election campaigns.

They said if their voters wanted the Party to lead they would have voted for the Party candidates in their constituencies and not them.

The independents said they could form the government with the Party, but they must be part of the decision making body to formulate a manifesto for them to follow while in power.

They would also have to have a say in making policy decisions for the new government.

It would not be fair to their supporters to just do whatever Pohiva and his Party wanted them to do.

The independents said the fact that only nine of the Democratic Party’s 17 candidates had been elected meant that many people did not approve of all their policies.

Agreement

When asked whether he would take up Pohiva’s offer to become Minister for Infrastructure in a democrat-led government, ‘Etuate Lavulavu said the offer had only been made to him by telephone and he wanted them to discuss the offer in a formal meeting.

“I told the Party we had to meet because I have something to say before any decision can be finalised,” Lavulavu said.

“The clear message I have from my constituency is that they want a government led by a Prime Minister elected from the MPs not the nobility,” Lavulavu said.

When asked whether they could work under Pohiva’s leadership, Lavulavu, Vakata and Piukala said it was possible, but Pohiva would have to agree to certain terms and conditions.

Vakata said the independents wanted to form the best government for the kingdom and that meant discussions among all those concerned, not just the Democrats.

Saia Piukala, who the Democrats announced had agreed to become Minister of Health, said there had been no formal agreement yet.

“We have to talk with Pohiva and the Party members before any agreement is made,” Piukala said.

Piukala said he had not signed the Party’s MOU and did not intend to do so.

He said the independents had just met for the first time and it was important that they stand together and make sure the people who elected them stayed at the top on their agenda.

Piukala said the Democratic Party had to open the curtains and allow everybody, including the nobility, to discuss the form of government that was best for the people.

According to legislation passed in 2010, the Minister for Land and Survey must come from the nobles. Piukala said this was why they wanted to talk to both the nobility and the Democratic Party as there were things that needed the direct involvement of the nobility.

The main points

  • The independent members of Tonga’s Parliament want a government led by a Prime Minister from their ranks and not from the nobility.
  • But they have made it clear they will talk to the nobles as well as the Democratic Party to secure their objective.
  • When asked if they had a Prime Ministerial candidate in mind, independents Fe’ao Vakata, ‘Etuate Lavulavu and Saia Piukala told Kaniva News they were still discussing it as they wanted to hear from the nobles and the Democrats first.
  • They were scheduled to meet with the nobles at 10am today (December 2) and tomorrow (Decvember 3) with Pohiva and the Party.

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