King does not have power to remove PM from Education Ministry, petitioners told

The Tongan constitution does not allow His Majesty King Tupou VI to sack Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva as Minister of Education and Training without asking his advice, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued the statement in the wake of an attempt by former Education Minister Dr ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki and former CEO Emily Pouvalu to persuade His Majesty to remove Hon. Pohiva from his role as Education Minister.

Taufe’ulungaki and Pouvalu led a group who presented a petition to the Palace Office in Nuku’alofa last month calling on His Majesty to revoke Hon. Pohiva’s ministerial appointment and that of acting Minister Hon. Etuate Lavulavu.

The Prime Minister’s Office advised them to take their grievance to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Pouvalu was quoted by local media as saying there was “a clause in the Constitution that talks about how the King can revoke the appointment of a minister on the grounds that he is ineligible for the role – so that’s the ground we are standing on.”

Pouvalu claimed there was evidence Pohiva did not uphold the rule of law and said that some staff at the Ministry were not confident in working under his ministership.

In response, Hon. Pohiva called on Taufe’ulungaki and Pouvalu to let him do his job as Minister of Education and said their time was over.

Hon. Pohiva said there were complaints by parents about the marks received by students who sat national examinations while Pouvalu and Taufe’ulungaki were leaders of the Ministry of Education.

He said they could not  resolve the issue, leaving it unresolved until he was appointed as the minister.

The Prime Minister said the first step to resolve the problem was to change the marking system for student exams from using standardisation to raw marks using  a software developed by Tongan computer programmer Piveni Piukala.

It has been revealed that Dr Taufe’ulungaki and Pouvalu agreed in 2014  to hire the local office of Indian-based company Triesten Technologies to upgrade the Ministry of Education’s computer assessment programme.

Hon. Pohiva said he was not aware of the deal  before he hired  Piukala.

What the Prime Minister’s Office said:

“With reference to a petition submitted to His Majesty The King to remove the Minister of Education & Training, Hon. Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva and the Acting Minister of Education & Training, Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu, on 20 October, 2015, the Prime Minister’s Office wishes to inform the petitioners that His Majesty is not empowered in law to require the Minister to divest himself of the Education & Training portfolio as  the Sovereign must act on the advice of the Prime Minister in the appointment of members of the Legislative Assembly to ministerial office or in respect of the Minister’s removal from office.”

The main points

  • The Tongan constitution does not allow His Majesty King Tupou VI to sack Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva as Minister of Education and Training without asking his advice, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
  • The Prime Minister’s Office issued the statement in the wake of an attempt by former Education Minister Dr ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki and former CEO Emily Pouvalu to persuade His Majesty to remove Hon. Pohiva from his role as Education Minister.
  • Taufe’ulungaki and Pouvalu presented a petition to the Palace Office in Nuku’alofa last month calling on His Majesty to revoke Hon. Pohiva’s ministerial appointment and that of acting Minister Hon Etuate Lavulavu.
  • The Prime Minister’s Office advised them to take their grievance to the Office of the Ombudsman.

For more information

Petition to remove Tongan PM from education not political, says organiser (RNZI)

PSA does not support petition (Tongan Government)

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