PM Tu‘i‘onetoa still silent, ‘Etuate Lavulavu ‘swears’ when asked if he writes PM’s response to Kaniva News questions

'Oku taupotu 'i lalo ha fakamatala faka-Tonga

Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’ionetoa has yet to reply to a question from Kaniva News asking him to identify the ‘Etuate to whom he sent our questions for a response.

‘Etuate Lavulavu (Left) and Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa

The queries were made after the Prime Minister appeared to have mistakenly sent to us an e-mail he intended to send to a person called Etuate, presumably for ‘Etuate to answer Kaniva’s queries.

The apparent mishap came after Kaniva News editor Kalino Latu asked the Prime Minister to comment after the Court of Arbitration for Sport confirmed the dismissal of the Tonga National Rugby League from the IRL.

We also asked him in a separate e-mail to comment after the Ministry of Transport issued a fake driving licence to a handicapped man, allowing him to drive on the road. A court case which was reported by Kaniva News recently revealed that he had killed a 76-year-old woman in Tongatapu.

Not long after the latter was sent Mr Latu received an e-mail from Hon Tu’i’onetoa, which read:

“ ‘Etuate,

Ko e toe Kalino aipe.


This translates into English as:


It’s Kalino again.


Mr Latu responded to the e-mail and asked Hon. Tu’ionetoa to identify ‘Etuate’s identity, but he did not reply.

Tu’i’onetoa later replied to our question about the fake driving licence, but his response was vague, something we have not been used to in his previous replies.

We re-sent him two of the questions about the fake driving licence asking his response and are awaiting a reply.

He was told Kaniva News would run a story on his email to ‘Etuate.

‘Etuate Lavulavu offensive

We contacted ‘Etuate Lavulavu and asked him whether he was the person the Prime Minister contacted.

Lavulavu, who was no stranger to courts, controversy or convictions did not deny it. Instead he was evasive, swearing and said there were many people called ‘Etuate.

In his response he said: “It can be Etuate Hafoka, Etuate Manuefetoa, Etuate Uata, Etuate Tuionetoa, Etuate Havea, Etuate Kuila, Etuate Kavenga, Etuate Taukolo, Etuate  Hopoi , Etuate Cocker, Etuate Tupou, Etuate Tutoe, Etuate Fakaleiti, Etuate Taufalele, Etuate Taemali, Etuate Ta’e’iloa, Etuate Afeaki and just like many ‘Etuate there were also  uu-etuate and uu-sione”.

The phrase uu-sione with which Lavulavu ended his list of names is known in Tongan as kapekape fakapoto or a calculated making up swearing words. It’s a mixture of the swear word ‘us_  and the name Sione to make it sounds he was referring to the plural form of name Sione by adding the sign of plural form word ‘ū at the front of the name, but the speaker’s intention was clearly swearing.

Mr Latu replied to ‘Etuate and told him it appeared that the one ‘Etuate missing from his list was himself.

In response, Lavulavu warned us that it was an offence in Tonga to bully somebody on the internet.

PM Office said Lavulavu was not a staff member

He accused Kaniva of defaming him, but failed to tell us which article on Kaniva that has allegedly defamed him.

Lavulavu, who is currently facing two separate fraud charges in the Supreme and Magistrate Courts, said his lawyer would write to us yesterday.

Kaniva advised Lavulavu to seek a professional media adviser to help him as his accusation against us was baseless.

Lavulavu also sent government advertising to Kaniva news and told us to publish it. When we sent the invoice to the Prime Minister’s office they asked us to remove the advertisement and said Lavulavu was not a staff of the Prime Minister’s office.

Prime Minister’s handwritten response

The Prime Minister is mostly seen in his interviews and radio talk shows reading his responses from typed out or handwritten documents.

Many of the Prime Minister’s critics, including Opposition Party, claimed somebody else composed the typed out documents.

It appears that he has difficulties in spontaneously answering questions from the media.

When Tu’i’onetoa was elected Prime Minister he was reported to have told local media that Lavulavu was his media advisor, something he later denied.

However, critics were skeptical about the denial after Lavulavu was later seen speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet at official events.

Lavulavu implied he engineered the Tonga People’s Party victory during the premiership election in 2019 and became widely known to the public as ‘engineer.’

Hon. Tu’i’onetoa was the chair of the Party while Lavulavu was the Deputy Chairman.

Controversial backgrounds

In 2003  Lavulavu apologised to the House after an altercation in which he swore at the late Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva.

In the same year, Lavulavu was arrested at the Salt Lake City International Airport, Utah after he arrived from Tonga and charged with falsifying immigration papers for Tongans to become American citizens as part of a scam carried out with his brother in 1997. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal use of a birth certificate, but only had to pay costs.

In 2004 he began referring to himself as “professor” and said he had a doctorate from an American institution, which turned out to be a notorious “mail order” university which essentially sells degrees.

The Director of Education said at the time that the Ministry did not recognise his “professorship.”

In 2016 Tonga’s Supreme Court convicted him of bribery and spending over the legal limit on his 2014 election campaign.

The judge said Lavulavu was not a credible witness and that his evidence was implausible, evasive and untruthful.

As a result of his conviction he was kicked out of Parliament. His wife Akosita won the by-election in his electorate.

In a case in 2000, Lavulavu was sued by the Late Prince Tu’ipelehake for damages and unlawful cultivation of his land. In his summing up of the trial, Lord Chief Justice Ward said Lavulavu “was willing to say almost anything that seemed to suit the moment with a repeated disregard for the truth.”

Last year the Supreme Court ordered his wife ‘Akosita, a Cabinet Minister, to pay the plaintiffs’ costs after Lord Chief Justice Whitten quashed her decision to deny whale watching and swimming licences.

Mr Whitten said her decisions were infected by errors of law.


Kuo toe fai e anga ‘o ‘Etuate Lavulavu me’a ko e lea kapekape ki he kakai’. Ko ‘ene kape fakapoto ‘eni ki he ‘Etita ‘o e Kaniva Tonga’ hono ‘eke atu pe ko ia ‘oku’ ne tali mai e fehu’i ne ‘imeili ki he Palēmia’. ‘Ikai ke ne faka’ikai’i kae fakaloea mai ia mo kape mai. Ko ‘ene lau mai ‘eni hili e tohi kole ia ‘a e Kaniva’ ki he ‘Eiki Palēmia’ Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa ke ‘omi ha’ane lau ki he keisi ‘e ua. Ko e taha ko hono fakapapau’i mai ‘e he Fakamaau’anga Fakavaha’apule’anga ki he sipoti hono tuli ‘e he IRL ‘a e Tonga National Rugby League pea ua ke ne fakamahino mai pe ko e hā e me’a ‘a e pule’anga’ kuo fai ki he tokotaha pe ni’ihi ne nau foaki ha laiseni loi ki ha taha mamatea mo ‘ikai matu’otu’a ‘ene fakakaukau’ ke faka’uli. Ne iku ‘o tamate’i ‘e he tokotaha faka’uli ko ‘eni ha fa’ē ta’u 76 ‘i Hahake he ta’u kuo ‘osi. Ka ne faka’ohovale ‘a e hū mai e ‘imeili mei he palēmia’ ‘o ‘ikai ko ha tali ki he fehu’i ‘a e Kaniva’ ka ko e ‘īmeili ia ki he tokotaha ko ‘Etuate. ‘Oku ‘i ai ‘a e tui ne fehalaaki ‘ene ‘ave ‘ene ‘imeili kia ‘Etuate ‘o ne li mai ‘e ia ki he Kaniva’. Na’e ‘eke atu leve ki ai pe ko hai ‘a ‘Etuate ‘oku toe ‘ave ki ai ‘a e fehu’i ‘a e Kaniva’ hangē ko ha’ane ‘uhinga ke tali mai ‘e ‘Etuate ‘emau fehu’i. Ka kuo te’eki tali mai ‘e he palēmia’ ‘a e fehu’i ko ia. Na’e ‘eke leva kia Lavulavu pe ko e ‘uhinga ‘a e PM ki ai’ ko e tali ‘eni ‘a e ‘Etuate. “’E malava pe ko Etuate Hafoka, Etuate Manuefetoa, Etuate Uata, Etuate Tuionetoa, Etuate Havea, Etuate Kuila, Etuate Kavenga, Etuate Taukolo, Etuate  Hopoi , Etuate Cocker, Etuate Tupou, Etuate Tutoe, Etuate Fakaleiti, Etuate Taufalele, Etuate Taemali, mo Etuate Ta’e’iloa, mo Etuate Afeaki pea hange ko e lahi e uu-etuate mo e uu-sione”. ‘Oku mahino ngofua ‘ene kape ‘oku ngāue’aki mai ‘e  lea ko e uu-sione’. Na’e tali’i atu ‘e he ‘ētita ‘ene kape mai ‘o pehe atu ‘oku ‘ikai ‘asi mai ‘i he ngaahi ‘Etuate ko ‘eni kuo’ ne ‘omai’ ‘a e ‘Etuate loi mo kākā ne halaia he fakamaau’anga ‘i ‘Amelika mo Tonga’. Ka ne tohi mai ‘a Lavulavu ‘o fakatokanga ‘oku tapu he lao ‘a Tonga ke fakamamahi’i ‘e taha ha taha. Na’e tali atu ‘o fakahā ki ai ko ia ne ne fuofua fai ‘a e fakamamahi (abuse) he fe’imeili’aki’  ‘o ‘uhinga ki he’ene kape fakapoto’.  Ne fai mo ‘ene fakamanamana mo fakamatala loi tokua ‘oku mau lau’ikovi’i ia pea ‘e tohi mai ‘ene loea. Ne fakahā atu ki ai ke ‘alu fai ‘ene fakamanamana ki ha kau leka. Ne ‘ikai te ne tala mai ko fe ‘emau ongoongo ‘oku lau’i kovi’i ai ia. ‘Oku mahu’inga ke lea mo’oni e palemia ‘o tala ki he fonua ko hai ‘a e kakai ‘oku ne ngāue’aki ke tali e fehu’i ‘oku ‘oatu ki ai he kapau ko e ‘ātunga ē he ta ko e faka’ulia hono lohiaki’i e fonua’. ‘I he 2003 ne tu’utu’uni ke kole fakamolemole ai ‘a Lavulavu ‘i Fale Alea hili ‘ene kapekape kia ‘Akilisi Pōhiva.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news