A controversial meeting outside Parliament session hours showed the Speaker was previously made aware of the Prime Minister’s intention to move to ballot his vote of no confidence without giving the Opposition the chance to debate it.
The meeting was held after a 223-page report of accusations and responses from the Opposition and Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku was read out to the House as part of a motion for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Mnister.
Hon. Hu’akavameiliku defeated the motion by a 14 – 11 vote.
Tongatapu 5 MP Dr ‘Aisake Eke submitted the motion of no confidence with 46 accusations against the Prime Minister. It was supported by 10 MPs.
Most of the Opposition MPs were unaware of the special meeting as they were away from Parliament during lunch time.
Dr Eke told Kaniva News he joined the meeting after the Prime Minister came to him inside the House at the MP’s seats and told him the Speaker wanted to meet with him in his office.
He said the Prime Minister told him the Speaker had something important he wanted to discuss with him.
“I then went with the Prime Minister to the Speaker’s office”, Dr Eke said in Tongan.
He said most of the Opposition MPs had yet to return from their lunch at the time so he had no time to consult with them about the meeting.
“I went to the meeting, but I determined that I must return to our MPs and consult with them about the meeting and would also return to the Speaker and tell him about our MPs’ opinion”, Dr Eke also said.
He claimed that once he and the Prime Minister arrived at the office the Speaker told them he wanted them to agree on what they were going to do after the reading out of the reports of the vote of the no confidence.
Hon. Eke said the Prime Minister told the Speaker some MPs in the government bench wanted to debate, but he stopped them because he wanted the House to ballot the vote of no confidence motion.
Hon. Eke said the Speaker then asked about his opinion.
“I told him if that is the government’s decision I think it would be nice to go ahead with the ballot”.
Hon. Eke claimed the Speaker advised him that when the House returned for session at 2pm, he would direct the MPs on what to do next, and he would leave it for Hon. Eke to move for the House to have the ballot and the PM agreed he would second the motion.
“That’s the end of the meeting”, Hon. Eke told Kaniva News.
He said when he returned and advised the Opposition MPs about the meeting and what had been agreed, the MPs said they wanted to debate the responses from the Prime Minister.
Hon. Eke said he went back to the Speaker and told him the Opposition wanted to debate before the ballot.
He claimed the Speaker said he understood their position, but advised Hon. Eke to inform the Prime Minister about it.
Hon Eke went to the Prime Minister and told him about the Opposition’s decision. He claimed the Prime Minister told him that when the House met he would move for the Speaker to ballot the motion.
Kaniva News has contacted the Speaker for comment.
We asked him whether the special meeting was on the agenda. We also asked him who organised and called his meeting with the Prime Minister and Hon Eke.
We also asked him why he did not declare the special meeting when the House returned after their lunch time since the vote of no confidence motion was livestreamed. We told him the Prime Minister’s revelation during the House session that there had been a meeting about the ballot without giving any details had sparked suspicion and speculation among the public that he was taking side with the Prime Minister.
Some commentators on social media also accused Dr Eke of betraying the Opposition and the Prime Minister of influencing the Speaker because of the lack of information releasing to the public at the time.
We have also contacted the Prime Minister for comment.
We asked him who organised and called the meeting.
We also asked him why he did not wait until the House returned for the afternoon session and let them know about his intention to ballot without debates.
As Kaniva News reported this morning, the Parliament postponed “until further notice” to allow Opposition MPs time to work on legal action against the Speaker.
MP Māteni Tapueluelu told Kaniva News the move was urgent and he and other MPs wrote to the Speaker and let him know they needed to file the legal action against him immediately.
The dispute centred on Clause 62 (2) of the Constitution , which says: “Any member of the Legislative Assembly may, in accordance with its rules of procedure – (a) introduce a Bill in the Assembly; (b) propose a motion for debate in the Assembly; or (c) present a petition to the Assembly, and it shall be dealt with in accordance with the Assembly’s rules of procedure.”
The Opposition believes the Assembly’s procedures and the Constitution clearly stipulate that they had the right to debate the motions after they were read out but the Speaker had blocked it.