His Majesty King Tupou VI met with Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva in a meeting described as a “great opportunity” at the start of Mr Pōhiva’s four year premiership.
The Prime Minister said His Majesty wanted to make sure the boundaries of the executive bodies’ responsibilities were clearly defined and that they would not be overstepped.
Mr Pōhiva said the King wanted the cabinet to inform him once they came across any issues relating to His powers that might interfere with the smooth running of the new government.
Pōhiva said the king had raised the issue because when the last government was in power there were times when the Cabinet and the Privy Council overstepped each other and intruded into areas that were His Majesty’s responsibility.
He said the King did not want these problems to happen again.
In his first Cabinet meeting with his ministers on Monday, Mr Pōhiva reiterated His Majesty’s concerns and said it was important for the Cabinet to follow the guidelines regarding areas of responsibility.
Privy Council and Cabinet
Changes to the Tongan constitution made before the introduction of democracy in 2010 saw the King relinquish some of his powers, allowing the election of the 26 member Legislative Assembly.
However, His Majesty retains some of the fundamental powers laid down by the Tongan constitution such as the right to reject any laws passed by the Legislative Assembly and submitted to him for approval.
No law passed by the government is legitimate unless the king signs the legislation.
His Majesty remains Commander-in-Chief of the Tonga Defence Force and has the power to proclaim martial law over any part or over the whole of the country.
The government’s day-to-day matters are guided by an executive body controlled by the Prime Minister.
The Privy Council includes appointed law lords whose responsibility is to advise the king on certain decision making process according to his constitutional rights.
Pōhiva said an example of the problems that could occur was when His Majesty ordered the Privy Council to investigate the issuing of Tongan passports, but this was not done because of cabinet intervention.
“The Cabinet and the Privy Council were in a rift, that was how it appeared to us when it happened,” Pohiva said.
The Prime Minister said he understood that the King did not want this kind of incident to happen again.
The main points
- His Majesty King Tupou VI wants the boundaries of responsibility between the Cabinet, Privy Council and himself to be clear under the new government.
- The kingdom’s new Prime Minister, ‘Akilisi Pohiva, said after a meeting with His Majesty that the King did not want a repeat of certain incidents that occurred under the previous government.
- Pohiva described the meeting at the start of his four year premiership as “a great opportunity.”
- Pohiva met with the new Cabinet for the first time on Monday.
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