Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet Edgar Cocker claims a photo showing apparently being restrained after an altercation actually shows him praying.
Photos of the incident have gone viral, but yesterday Cocker told Kaniva News he had been praying and was asking the Prince to kneel down so they could pray together.
Cocker’s version of events appears to contradict the evidence of the video and reports by witnesses on news and social media.
In the video from which the photos were taken, he is seen apparently trying to rise from the floor while Prince Tu’ipelehake is restrained by some bystanders.
Witnesses told Tongan media the young prince “pushed Edgar away” after he had made abusive remarks to girls who were in his company at the Naughty Ruby Night Club.
Kaniva News asked Cocker to assure us he was telling the truth about what happened.
All he said in response was “Malo” (thanks).
Other media have previously been unable to contact him about the incident.
The prince could not be contacted for his side of the story.
As previous media reports have pointed out, irrespective of the details of what happened, many people clearly regard Cocker – one of the closest administrators to the Prime Minister and a senior CEO looked up to by other Government leaders – as having been brought into disrepute.
Members of the public expressed their concerns at what they called an unacceptable behaviour by some of the country’s leaders.
“They let down the government,” a commenter wrote on Facebook.
Cocker has been a controversial figure, particularly during the saga of the government-owned Lulutai airline.
Cocker publicly supported statements by the Prime Minister regarding the appointment and sacking of the airline’s CEO, which were later called into question by documentary evidence.
When asked by Kaniva News whether former Lulutai CEO Maikolo Faasolo had held the position, Cocker aid no. When e-mailed the copy of the contract which showed Fa’asolo was indeed the CEO of Lulutai before he was forced to resign, Cocker said nothing.