Rejection of TP$60,000 proposal may have angered Deputy and Finance Minister, PM says

Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva said he suspected his rejection of a proposal by the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister to spend TP$60,000 on the opening of the St George Palace had turned the duo against him.

Hon. Pōhiva sacked Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni and Minister of Finance Tēvita Lavemaau on Friday before he left for Samoa to attend the Pacific Leaders forum.

His son and personal assistant Po’oi Pōhiva told Kaniva News yesterday the Prime Minister had submitted the letter of the ministers’ dismissals to the king on Friday evening.

He said they received a message from the Lord Chamberlain saying that she had handed in the letter to His Majesty.

Po’oi said the Prime Minister was expecting a response from the king on Monday.

Hon. Lavemaau and Hon. Sovaleni proposed to the Cabinet that TP$60,000 be allocated to help fund the preparations for the opening ceremony of the St George Palace on Friday.

Hon. Pōhiva said he and some of the ministers who attended a cabinet meeting did not approve the proposal as they thought it was a huge amount of money to be spent on the ceremony.

His Majesty King Tupou VI, who suddenly dissolved Parliament and put Hon. Pōhiva and his government on caretaker mode opened the new multi-million St George Government Building on Friday.

He was welcomed by the Prime Minister during the ceremony and they shook hands before the king left the event.

The TP$28 million building project was funded by the Chinese government in an agreement signed in 2012.

The fully equipped building with a floor area of around 5745 square metre has housed the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance and National Planning, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cabinet Chambers.

The Interim Prime Minister alleged Hon. Sovaleni and Hon. Lavemaau knew about the King’s and Speaker Lord Tu’ivakano’s plan to dissolve Parliament, but they did not warn him because they were holding a grudge against him after their proposal was rejected, he told Radio Tonga Broadcom and Tonga Daily News last night.

Hon. Pōhiva said he was very disappointed with Sovaleni and Lavemaau’s action in that they should have warmed him about the dissolution.

He implied that if he had been warned of the plan to dissolve the House he might have approached the king first.

He said he found out when he arrived in New Zealand on his way to Samoa last week some people in New Zealand knew the king was going to dissolve Parliament.

Hon. Pōhiva said there were other things he was concerned about towards the two ministers but he did not reveal them.

Dismissals

It appeared the dismissals did not go through the cabinet before they were made, as they shocked some of the Ministers who only found about the decision from Kaniva News on Saturday morning.

It appeared Hon. Pōhiva did not approach Hon. Lavemaau and Hon. Sovaleni about their dismissals and the Prime Minister did not say whether he had proof the ministers knew about plan to dissolve Parliament.

The two dismissed cabinet members reportedly said they knew nothing about their dismissals.

Hon. Dr. Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa, who was appointed as replacement Minister of Finance did not know about his appointment.

He told us he only knew about it from Kaniva News and he had not received any message about it.

Hon. Pōhiva confirmed last night he had also appointed Lord Ma’afu as Deputy Prime Minister and Hon. Poasi Tei to the MEIDECC.

Lord Ma’afu told Radio New Zealand he was unaware of his appointment and the reshuffle.

Hon. Pōhiva said he would not appoint new ministers from outside cabinet after the dismissals of Hon. Sovaleni and Hon. Lavemaau.

Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu told the radio Hon. Pōhiva still held the power to dismiss any of his ministers while the government was in caretaker mode.

Hon. Lavemaau and Hon. Sovaleni have been contacted for comment.

The main points

  • Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pohiva said he suspected his rejection of a proposal by the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister to spend TP$60,000 on the opening of the St George Palace had turned the duo against him
  • Pohiva sacked Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni and Minister of Finance Tevita Lavemaau on Friday before he left for Samoa to attend the Pacific Leaders forum.
  • Pohiva alleged Hon. Sovaleni and Hon. Lavemaau knew about the King’s and Speaker Lord Tu’ivakano’s plan to dissolve Parliament, but did not warn him because their proposal was rejected
  • The two dismissed cabinet members reportedly said they knew nothing about their dismissals.

For more information

PM Pōhiva has sacked Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

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