Minister denies Nepituno Online claim constituency fund pays for Vavaʻu fuel

Tonga’s Health Minister Saia Piukala rejected claims made on the Nepituno website that he used part of his constituency fund to help pay for fuel transported from Tongatapu to Vavaʻu last year.

Hon. Piukala said the claim was untrue and he did not say that during a conversation with the editor Dr. Viliami Latu.

He said the constituency budget was controlled by Parliament and the funds for 2016-2017 have already been distributed among his constituents.

He said Nepituno should have double checked their facts before publishing their story.

The Minister said Dr. Latu did not tell him that he was going to publish the conversation they had during a party in Vavaʻu.

“Is it ethical and professional for a journalist to just collect ʻtalanoa faikavaʻ (talking at kava circles) and publishing them without getting confirmation from the sources to make sure they got all the facts before publishing them?”, Hon. Piukala said.

Dr. Latu did not deny what Hon. Piukala has rejected his story, saying he just published what the Minister had told him to.

Dr. Latu told Kaniva News he respected Hon. Piukala’s reaction to the story.

He said he thought the way Hon. Piukala was talking to him and others during the party was a hint for him to publish what he was talking about.

“The issue is important and because I raised it before, I found the conversation with him as an opportunity to clarify it”, Dr Latu said.

The fuel was transported from Tongatapu to Vavaʻu by former government Minister and outgoing MP for Vavaʻu, ʻEtuate Lavulavu at a time when the northern island group had not had any new fuel shipments for weeks.

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