The Government of Tonga is expected to pass an amendment to its constitution this week which critics say a move that was intentionally made to prevent the Prime Minister from being easily voted out by the opposition party.
The amendment will be known as 50B(2) and its texts are as follows:
“ A vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister
(a) shall not be moved unless at least 5 working days’ notice of the intention to move such a motion has been given to the Speaker;
(b) shall be of no effect if made within 18 months after a general election has been held, nor within 6 months before the date by which an election shall be held in accordance with clause 77(1), or within 12 months after the date on which the last such motion was voted upon in the Legislative Assembly;
(c) shall be of no effect unless passed by a majority of at least two thirds of the members voting on the motion.”
Only 13 members needed to win any Vote of No-Confidence as the constitution currently stands but the new change requires 17.
The amendment to clause 50B is one of the 5 bills recently announced by the Office of the Attorney General to be submitted to Parliament for discussion.
It was reported that a letter was submitted to the Acting Speaker of the House, Lord Tu’iha’ateiho this morning by the deputy Prime Minister, Hon Samiu Vaipulu advising that this Parliamentary emergency session was to discuss the bills and no further public consultation required on those amendments.
Tonga’s reformed constitution approved by the Privy Council in 2010 went through an intensive process of collecting public opinions including presentation at fono, public written submission from the public sector, civil societies, outer-island communities, overseas Tongans and other interest groups.
‘Akilisi told his Tongan Local Newspaper that the new amendment should have gone through that same process.
He condemned the Government’s action saying that it is “self-interested” and his party will strongly oppose the bill in the House.
He also questioned why does not the government follow the normal procedure it’s currently doing on a public consultation conducted on the Anti-Corruption Commissioner (amendment) Bill 2012 that sought the public’s opinion since October 2012.
The House today started its deliberation on 2 of the 5 bills which were Emergency Amendment Bills on Land and the Legislative Assembly Amendment bill 2013.