Island residents, officials, complain about having to provide feasts for fasting and prayer tours; PM gifts villagers

Residents of Tonga’s outer islands are beginning to revolt at demands for elaborate feasts to be provided for the government’s prayer and fasting tours.

Reliable sources have told Kaniva News that the government’s heads of departments in Vava’u were told to provide polas.

PM Tu’i’onetoa’s mokopuna Loseta (right)  performing a tau’olunga with a tekiteki of $1000 donated by the Prime Minister and his family to the Tu’anekivale village development projects. Photo/Television Tonga (Screenshot)

A pola is originally a long tray made of coconut fronds plaited together. It can be used to serve up to 30 types of dishes, which can include chicken, crayfish, octopus, pork and vegetables steamed in an umu, suckling pig, and several varieties of tropical fruits.

However, the Vava’u officials are reported to have complained that they could not afford to buy the food.

In the end the government team led by Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa were provided with huge meals at the expense of the Vava’u locals.

Town officers in some districts, including Hahake and Leimātu’a, rejected requests by the governor’s office to provide polas for the tour. They said they did not believe people should be obliged to bear such expenses.

The Governor of Vava’u, Lord Fakatulolo, has been contacted for comment.

There were complaints from Longomapu locals about the programme which had been announced to be attended by the Prime Minister.

The locals gathered at the Maamamo’onia hall and waited, but they were finally told the programme was cancelled because the Prime Minister and his team were travelling to the island of Ofu, an estate of Lord Tu’ilakepa, the Minister of Agriculture, Forest and Food

Prime Minister’s donations

Meanwhile, during a celebration in Tu’anekivale on Saturday to open a new weaving hall and centre for women it was announced the Prime Minister and his family have donated TOP$1,000 to help the village’s development.

Another donation was presented to the Governor of Vava’u from the Prime Minister and his entourage but the total amount of money was not announced.

A Tongan tau’olunga item was performed as part of the donations with Tongan handicrafts were also presented as gifts for the locals.

Cabinet ministers and officers attending the celebration were seen at the tau’olunga spot rewarding the dancer and the tu’ulāfale people with pa’anga notes.

The Tu’anekivale villagers also presented a hā’unga which was a hog and kava plant for the Prime Minister and his government retinue.

As Kaniva News reported since last week, the controversy surrounding the use of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ money for the national fasting and prayer programme has drawn a strong response from the Prime Minister, who said it was one of his policies to fight against Covid-19.

Kaniva News was told a protest was staged and ready to welcome the Prime Minister on his way from the airport last week, but was cancelled after the governor, Lord Fakatulolo, arrived at the scene and pleaded with the protestors to please cancel it as it would affect his relationship with the Prime Minister. The protestors agreed.

We have reported photos of a number of vehicles being draped with banners, including one which accused the Prime Minister of duping the people of Vava’u. Those photos were taken at the scene.

As we reported, another banner demanded the Prime Minister resign and another read “Stop the Kefeu Palemia ke Sesele” (Stop imposing curfews are you foolish Prime Minister).

“You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool Vava’u all the time,” another banner read.

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