The king of Tonga His Majesty King Tupou VI has revoked ‘Etuate Sungalu Lavulavu as minister of Tourism effective February 1, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
The royal command was issued after His Majesty received an advice from Prime Minister Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, the Office said.
Hon Pōhiva Tuʻiʻonetoa, the Minister of Police, Prisons and Fire Services, Ministry of Commerce and Labour, has been appointed as interim minister of Tourism effective February 1.
Lavulavu became Minister for Tourism after he was elected to Parliament as the Member for Vavaʻu 16 in the 2014 general election.
He was stripped of his parliamentary seat on Monday after the Supreme Court found him guilty of bribery and overspending during the 2014 election.
According to clause 51 (3) (c) of Tonga’s constitution the Supreme Court’s conviction of Lavulavu together with the official announcement by the Speaker that he has been disqualified from Parliament means Lavulavu cannot keep his ministerial position.
According to the constitution clause 51 (3) a minister shall retain his position as Minister until –
(a) his appointment is revoked by the King on the recommendation of the Prime Minister or in accordance with clause 50B;
(b) he dies, resigns or is dismissed from office following impeachment under clause 75; or
(c) he becomes ineligible to hold the office in accordance with this Constitution or any other law.
Tonga’s Acting Attorney General said Lavulavu was appointed to the ministry by Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva because he was elected by the people in the general election.
He said Lavulavu no longer belonged to the Parliament or the government. He could return to Parliament if he was re-elected.
He said the captain or vice-captain of a rugby team retained their positions only because they were elected by the team. Once they were dropped from the team they lost their positions.
Lavulavu has indicated he will appeal his sentence however if the Appeal Court will uphold the Supreme Court’s decision against him clause 40 of Tonga’s Electoral Act 1989 stipulates he “may not be nominated as a candidate at any election held within 5 years of the date when he is ordered to be unseated”.