More complaints about how PM’s office treats questions from Tongan media

In picture: L-R, ʻUluʻalo Poʻuhila, Dr Palenitina Langaʻoi and Kalafi Moala.


Dissatisfaction with how the Prime Minister’s Office treats questions from the Tongan media have surfaced again.

Kakalu ‘o Tonga editor ‘Ulu’alo Po’uhila said he had sent many questions to the Prime Minister’s Office and its Secretary to Cabinet without receiving a reply.

Po’uhila said they only responded after he publicly raised his dissatisfaction on Facebook.

“Is this how the Prime Minister’s office in Tonga treats the media; to only respond to their questions  after the media publicly  questions their silence?” he asked.

He said it was unfortunate that nobody signed the letter he received after criticising the PM’s Office on Facebook.

He claimed this was “unprofessional” and said he did not publish the information.

“It used to be said that the mass media is the fourth power after the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary,” Po’uhila wrote on Facebook.

“Press shall criticize the authorities when state officials and politicians make mistakes.

“If we have the opposite of the above mentioned we will have to deal with authoritarian regime.”

The editor was chatting with Kaniva News after we published a story featuring Kalafi Moala, the outgoing media adviser for the Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva.

Moala told us the Secretary to Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s Office would not respond to the media questions we sent them.

He said he had experienced the same problem when he was in the office.

Moala was employed by the Prime Minister as his Media Adviser on a part time position, but his contract ended on November 25.

Moala slammed Dr Palenitina Lang’oi, the Secretary to Cabinet and Chief Secretary and called on her to resign.

Moala claimed Dr Langa’oi “was not on the same page” as Hon. Pohiva.

He said Hon. Pohiva wanted his office to be transparent and never hide anything that was of public interest.

Kaniva News is one of a number of media outlets which have found it difficult to obtain a formal response from the Prime Minister’s Office when sent them questions.

We sent questions to Dr Langaʻoi on November 17 and asked to clarify whether or not the king has approved Hon Pōhiva’s proposal to revoke  ‘Aminisiasi Kefu’s role as Acting Attorny General.

We received no reply until on November 26, after Kalafi Moala appeared on Kaniva and criticised Dr Langa’oi for not treating media professionally. The Prime Minister’s Office responded and said they have not received any decision regarding Kefu. The response was said to have come from the Prime Minister’s Office and no one signed it.

We asked Dr Langa’oi early this year if we could have the Prime Minister’s contact details to enable us to contact him in matters related to media.

In her response, Dr Langa’oi told us to direct all questions to the Prime Minister to her and the Prime Minister’s Office as she would take responsibility for them.

Since then she has not replied to most questions we have sent to her personal email address.

If there was a response, Dr Palenitina appears to have either made a guess at the answer or directed it to somebody else, but that was the end of it.

Dr Palenitina Responses

In an e-mail to Kaniva News last week, Dr Palenitina apologised for any inconvenience she and the Prime Minister’s Office had caused when we sent them media questions.

Dr Langa’oi said the government’s procedure was that the  media should address their questions to Secretary to Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s Office and not to address them personally to her.

She said this was to facilitate the process so that whenever the Secretary to Cabinet was overseas, the person who was acting in her post could make the response.

In New Zealand we contact the Prime Minister either through his personal e-mail or working e-mail.

Within minutes we received a response informing us our email has been received and are told to expect a response within a fixed time, mostly it was within 24 hours.

When we get the response, someone – mostly the Prime Minister’s PA – signs it and says he or she has discussed the matter with the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister has agreed for him or her to respond to us.

Sometimes the person who signs the e-mail of response tells us to attribute the response to a spokesperson from the office.

Nothing like this has happened when dealing with the Prime Minister’s Office in Tonga.

If we send a letter and personally address it to the name of the New Zealand Prime Minister or a Cabinet Minister, no one in the Office answers the letter.

It will only be answered by the Prime Minister or the Minister and nobody else.

This procedure shows the three main mechanism of democracy which are accountability, transparency and good governance.

The Tongan Prime Minister’s Office does not seem to have any of these mechanisms.

The main points

  • Dissatisfaction with how the Prime Minister’s Office treats questions from the Tongan media have surfaced again.
  • Kakalu ‘o Tonga editor ‘Ulu’alofa Po’uhila said he had sent many questions to the Prime Minister’s Office and its Secretary to Cabinet without receiving a reply.
  • Kaniva News recently published a story featuring Kalafi Moala, the outgoing media adviser for Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva.
  • Moala told us the Secretary to Cabinet and the Prime Minister’s Office would not respond to the media questions we sent them.

For more information

Moala launches stinging attack on Cabinet Secretary (Kaniva News)

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