This Content Is Only For Subscribers
The Parliament’s Chief Clerk said a controversial meeting between the Speaker, the Prime Minister and Tongatapu 5 MP Dr ‘Aisake Eke on Wednesday was a normal way of meeting used when an MP had something to raise with the Speaker.
She said during the Parliament’s session for the vote of no confidence last week the Speaker met with several MPs on various occasions.
She said the details of such meeting would not be released during Parliamentary sessions in order to allow MPs to feel confident in raising any issues with the Speaker.
Chief Clerk Gloria Pōle’o was responding after Kaniva News asked the Speaker, Lord Fakafanua, for comment on what we described as a “secret meeting” between him, the Prime Minister and Tongatapu 5 MP Dr ‘Aisake Eke on the day the House was about to ballot the Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku’s vote of no confidence motion.
Pōle’o denied the accusation raised by the public against the Speaker.
She said Lord Fakafanua was neutral and his responsibility was to direct the Parliament’s operation according to his interpretation of the Constitution and the Assembly’s rules.
“However, not all MPs, media organisations, the people and the Lord Speaker could agree on the same interpretation at all times”, Pōle’o said in Tongan.
Pōle’o confirmed the meeting in question had occurred. She said she attended it. However, she refused to answer any of our queries which were sent to the Speaker.
As we reported yesterday, we asked the Speaker whether the meeting in question was on the agenda. We also asked him who organised and called his meeting with the Prime Minister and Hon. Eke.
We asked him why he did not declare the special meeting when the House returned after their lunch break since the vote of no confidence motion was livestreamed.
We told the Speaker that the Prime Minister’s surprise revelation of that meeting during the House session without giving any details had sparked suspicion and speculation among the public that he was taking sides with the Prime Minister.
Some Democratic (PTOA) supporters interpreted the meeting differently and accused Dr Eke of betraying the Opposition.
Dr Eke was called to the meeting after he submitted the vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
Not all MPs, especially the Opposition, were informed about the meeting.
As we reported yesterday, the Speaker was made aware in that meeting that the Prime Minister would move in the House to have his vote of no confidence balloted without a debate.
Since Dr Eke had joined the meeting in question the Prime Minister used it as an excuse in the House to silence the Opposition from arguing that they should be given an opportunity to respond to his answers to the motion of no confidence.
MP Piveni Piukala told the Prime Minister he could not use a meeting held outside Parliament as a defence.
The Opposition argued that the Prime Minister was trying to prevent them from clarifying his responses – which they deemed misleading – for fear that the public might find out more about the truth of his responses.
The Speaker eventually allowed the Prime Minister’s motion for a vote which was carried by 17 – 10.
Pōle’o also confirmed that Parliament was postponed yesterday until further notice to allow the Opposition to file their legal action against the Speaker over his decision not to allow them to debate the Prime Minister’s responses.