Claims of money transfers, secret meetings and misuse of staff ‘degrading’ says Speaker

Lord Sialeʻataongo Tuʻivakanō has hit back at allegations made against him by a former parliamentary employee, saying they had “degraded” him.

Seinimili Tu’i’onetoa Fonua, who described herself as a legal adviser to parliament, said she had resigned from the Legislative Assembly over what she claimed was a lack of independence in parliament and allegations of financial and other irregularities involving Lord Tuʻivakanō, who is the Speaker of the House and a former Prime Minister.

Fonua also claimed that:

  • The plan to dissolve parliament was arranged by Lord Tuʻivakanō through a number of secret meetings with Chief Clerk Gloria Pole’o and others.
  • There were cultures of favouritism and nepotism in the House in which staff had been treated as pro-nobility and pro-government.
  • Lord Tuʻivakanō had improperly used parliamentary staff and resources to support Chinese business associates.
  • Lord Tuʻivakanō and parliamentary staff were involved in improperly sending money overseas. Sums of up to TP$20,000 at a time were involved.
  • A restaurant owned by the Speaker and operated by the Chief Clerk’s mother and sister was regularly used for parliamentary functions.
  • Staff were being paid for overtime they did not do.
  • The Speaker had abused his power by using parliamentary staff to do personal work for him

Her letter of resignation, dated October 26,  was leaked to the media and has since been read on a Tongan radio station.

Kaniva News was made aware of the letter on Friday, but for the sake of balance decided to delay publishing the story until we had a response from the king’s noble.

In a letter to Fonua seen by Kaniva News, Lord Tuʻivakanō said her “negative suspicion and misinformation” showed she had a political agenda.

He claimed she had admitted that she could not perform her role independently because she was related to a government minister.

“You were disappointed after you were not informed of the decision to advise the king to dissolve the parliament,” Lord Tuʻivakanō said.

“You have then claimed I worked secretly with the Chief Clerk on that matter. I would like to make it clear that neither the Chief Clerk nor anyone in the House was involved in my plan to advise the king to dissolve the House.

“It was in my discretion to seek advice from any of the staff at parliament. There was no need for me to seek advice from you.”

Lord Tuʻivakanō claimed Fonua had really resigned because she had been appointed by Cabinet as a Commissioner with the Electricity Commission.

“The Chief Clerk advised you to let me know about it. It is understood the parliament’s guideline does not say anything about staff having two jobs,” he said.

“You were selfish to hold two jobs at one time.”

The Speaker denied Fonua’s claims that there was conflict between him and the Chief Clerk.

He dismissed accusations that money had been improperly transferred overseas.

“If that was illegal you know which place to take it up with. Anyone in the office of the Parliament is free to do the same thing,” he said.

The Speaker of Parliament said he had copied his letter to Fonua to the Election Commission, Public Enterprises and Public Service Commission.

The main points

  • Lord Sialeʻataongo Tuʻivakanō has hit back at allegations made against by a former Parliamentary employee, saying they had “degraded” him.
  • Seinimili Tu’i’onetoa Fonua, who described herself as a legal adviser to parliament, said she had resigned from Parliament over what she claimed was a lack of independence in Parliament and allegations of financial and other irregularities involving Lord Tuʻivakanō, who is the Acting Speaker of the House and a former Prime Minister.
  • In her resignation letter, Fonua made a number of allegations against the Speaker, including claims of improper use of parliamentary staff and resources.
  • She also claimed that he had worked with the Chief Clerk on the plan to dismiss parliament.

For more information

Speaker Lord Tuʻivakanō finally speaks out after king dissolved Parliament

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