MOH denies report PM has “prostate cancer” as family threatens to sue Kakalu newspaper

The Ministry of Health has denied a report by Kakalu ‘o Tonga newspaper claiming Prime Minster ‘Akilisi Pōhiva has prostate cancer.

“‘Oku kanisā ‘a e Palēmia” (The Prime Minister has cancer), was the front page headline in Kakalu ‘o Tonga on Thursday, January 18.

“The news is absolutely wrong and I do not know where they got their information from,” Dr. Sione Lātū from Vaiola hospital told Kaniva News last night.

Dr. Lātū, a physician specialist and the Vaiola hospital medical ward superintendent, looked after the Prime Minister when he was admitted to hospital on Friday, January 12.

No details about his illness have been released.

Dr. Lātū said the Prime Minster was discharged from hospital on Saturday morning and was in good health.

The paper reported in Tongan:

“Ka ‘oku ma’u ‘e he nusipepa ni ‘a e fakamatala falala’anga ‘aupito ‘oku kanisa e Palemia´ pea na’e ‘osi ‘ilo pe ia ‘i he taha ‘ene ngaahi folau fakafaito’o mai ki Nu’usila ni he teemi na’e toki ‘osi´. Ko e kalasi ‘eni e kanisaa ko e Prostate Cancer ‘aia ko e kanisa pe ia he fakatangata e kakai tangata´ (Hufanga he fakatapu´).

This translates into English as:

“But this newspaper has learned from a very reliable source the Prime Minister suffered from cancer and this was revealed during one of his medical visits to New Zealand during his previous parliamentary term. His cancer was prostate, a cancer which develops on men’s private parts.”

Kakalu ‘o Tonga editor ‘Ulu’alofa Po’uhila told Kaniva News the issue was “pelepelengesi” (sensitive).

He was responding after we asked him to tell us if he obtained any medical reports confirming the Prime Minister had prostate cancer.

He said he did not want to make further comment on the issue.

Threats

Po’uhila said he had received a letter from one of Hon Pōhiva’s children denying the news and threatening to sue him and his paper.

He said he would publish the letter in his next issue.

Hon. Pōhiva’s eldest son, Siaosi Pōhiva, has also denied the paper’s report.

He said he was aware the Prime Minister’s office has considered filing legal action against Kakalu.

Siaosi said this was not the first time Kakalu had printed such allegations about  his father.

He said the problem was that the Prime Minister always preferred not to take legal actions against any defamatory publication against him.

Attacks

Po’uhila said he was a subject of personal attacks on social media after he published the story last week.

The editor said he sent his story to the Minister of Health, Hon. Saia Piukala, before it was published.

He said he also sought legal opinions from a legal counsel.

Hon Piukala said he told Kakalu ‘o Tonga the Prime Minister was recovering well, but the paper was insistent claiming Hon Pōhiva was in a serious condition because he was at the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

The Minister said patients who were admitted to Vaiola’s ICU were not all in serious conditions.

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