Tongan athletes dumped at the airport Deputy Prime Minister steps in

Photo: Some of the Tongan athletes at the airport. Photo/Facebook

The Tongan Deputy Prime Minister, Siaosi Sovaleni, tried to send the Tongan athletic team on a flight to Papua New Guinea on Tuesday but to no avail as the team’s names were not on the passenger list.

The airline authorities could not provide Hon. Sovaleni with a solution as changing the passenger list an hour before the scheduled flight would affect the flight as a whole.

According to a reliable source, the athletes were told by Tonga Amateaur Sport Association and National Olympic Committee (TASANOC) that  the Interim General Secretary, ‘Ahongalu Fusimalohi, would meet them at the airport to give them their flight tickets to PNG for the Pacific Games.

Upon arrival at the Fu’amotu International Airport, however, the athletes were angry to discover that their names were not on the passenger list and that no TASANOC officials were awaiting them.

It has been revealed the incident happened after the Tongan official delegation has already been in PNG for the Games.

According to the reliable source, the athletes arrived at the airport at approximately 4pm before their flight left at 6pm. The source also witnessed Hon. Sovaleni’s reaction when he found out that the team was not on the flight list, and his attempts to negotiate a remedy with the Fiji Airline Authorities.

The incidents left the athlete furious, and according to the source, the team began leaving the departure lounge and walking along the outside of the airport, as well as leaving the airport altogether in cars and taxis.

Despite repeated contacts and requests Fusimalohi did not comment about the incident.

Previous incidents

In August 2013, an outburst of public anger occurred after it was revealed that the Tongan delegation in the South Pacific Mini Games 2013 in Wallis and Futuna had to pay a much larger amount of money for a plane ticket than the government delegation. The Tongan delegation needed to pay TP$850 (NZ$545.45) per ticket on the MV Otuanga’ofa, while the government delegation paid a cost of TP$57,000 (NZ$34,000) and TP$24,000 (NZ$ 15,612.96) for the Rugby Union Seven Team.

The Rugby Seven team had to play in borrowed women’s shorts in the 2013 Mini South Pacific Games.

In December 2013, Kaniva News ran a story which declared that Tonga’s sporting teams needed fair treatment. The story discussed the fact that the Tongan Special Olympics Asia Pacific team won three gold medals in Newcastle, but still did not receive any financial assistance from the government.

In February 2014, the family of Tonga’s Winter Olympian Bruno Banani blasted TASANOC executives, saying that they neglected his travel process and left everything to the last minute.

The criticism was brought up after the family found out that Banani’s sister was left behind to travel to Sochi, Russia by herself, rather than with TASANOC’s officials, whom were already on their way to Sochi without having taken her with them.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.


Latest news

Related news