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UPDATED (6.30AM Sat 9) A comment by Speaker Lord Fakafanua during a dispute in Parliament on Wednesday’s vote of no confidence motion has been deemed by critics as his admission of siding with the Prime Minister.
The vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku was defeated by a 14 – 11 vote.
The result was announced in the wake of a heated debate and exchanges in the House after the Prime Minister fought to have the Speaker withdraw his promise that the House would be given time to debate his answers to accusations laid against him in the vote of no confidence motion.
Opposition MP Māteni Tapueluelu had proposed a motion for the Speaker to allow them to correct and clarify some responses from the Prime Minister they believed were misleading and inaccurate. The Speaker refused and went ahead with a motion by the Prime Minister to ballot the Vote of No Confidence which was carried with a 17 – 10 vote.
The Speaker had to warn some of the MPs to behave. He ordered some of them to sit down and be quiet during a heated dispute that saw the Prime Minister visibly stressed and repeatedly answered the Opposition MPs back while they were speaking.
At one stage during the arguments the Lord Speaker said in Tongan: “‘Oku ‘ikai ha’aku tafa’aki he me’a ko ‘eni”.
This translates into English as “ I am not taking sides”.
His comment was quickly picked up by some listeners who listened and watched the Parliament livestream and bantered about it.
The remark is a commonly shared type of Tongan punchline which reveals what one has been trying to hide or doing wrong by accidentally hinting or admitting the truth in a way the speaker did not intend. In a situation like that people responded by jokingly saying we did not ask you to tell us that you did it.
No one in the House has accused the Speaker of being biased in his handling of the Vote of No Confidence.
However, his comment amused some listeners with critics joking that the Speaker was confessing.
One PTOA (Democrat) supporter, Saimone Faukafa, replied to the Speaker’s remark in Tongan.
“Ko e pehee mai lea ia a e sea … fakamolemole pe oku ikai te u kau ki ha tafaaki…he nae tala atu ‘e ha taha ..kuo vetehia pe ia lol”.
In English this translates as: “The comment by the Speaker says…..Sorry I am not taking sides….no one asked him about that….he was just confessing lol”.
Some social media users took the comment further, saying they could connect the dots and believe that the Speaker was strongly influenced by the Prime Minister.
Many believed the Speaker’s comment was part of his attempt to twist his promise on Tuesday that the House would debate the Prime Minister’s responses to the 46 accusations laid out in the vote of no confidence motion and eventually denied that he agreed for the MPs to debate.
As Kaniva News reported yesterday, the Speaker went back on his promise and told the Parliament that the debate he mentioned on Tuesday was meant for the House to debate the Assembly’s procedure on how to conduct the ballot for the Vote of No Confidence motion.
The 46 serious accusations against the Prime Minister included the Lulutai scandals, Cabinet Ministers involvement with the government’s boards of directors, government loans mismanagement, failing to submit to Parliament decisions according to the law, failing to act transparently and practising favouritism.