Tonga Rugby Union interim chair Feʻao Vunipola has gone public on his side of the latest dispute that engulf the TRU after former CEO Fuka Kitekeiʻaho talked to Kaniva News.
Vunipola said he had intended to keep his side of the story until the dispute went to arbitration, but had decided to talk openly about the issue.
Kitekeiʻaho and his supporters launched an arbitration application claiming Vunipola’s election as the TRU’s interim acting president was unconstitutional.
They alleged that representatives from the outer islands who helped elect Vunipola should not have been allowed to vote because they had not held district rugby competitions in the past four years.
Their votes were therefore unconstitutional, they claimed.
Vunipola claimed Kitekeiʻaho still held ill feelings after the TRU refused to confirm him as CEO after he had held the post as an interim appointment for two years.
He told Kaniva News he had been advised by his lawyer that Kitekeiʻaho’s complaint was unconstitutional because it should have been brought under the rules of the Tongatapu Rugby Sub-Union Clubs.
Vunipola said the complaint by Kitekeiʻaho and his supporters was invalid because the complainants were not members of the union, but only representatives.
He said a member was referred to the vahefonua or the district unions in Tongatapu, ʻEua, Haʻapai and Vavaʻu as stipulated by the constitutions clauses 11 and 15 and not the rugby clubs.
The complainants were representatives of rugby clubs which came under the Tongatapu Rugby Sub-unions, Vunipola said.
Clause 11 of the Tonga Rugby Union Incorporated says:
Members of the union
- The Members of the Union shall consist of the:-
- Officers of the Union;
- Directors of the Board of Directors, representing the Rugby Sub-Unions; and
- Rugby Sub-Unions.
Vunipola said the constitution required complaints of this nature to be submitted through the executive committee and the president of the Rugby Sub-Unions to reduce the costs and time spent on unnecessary complaints made by sub-rugby unions.
He said there was no section in the constitution that said members attending an AGM would be stripped of their rights if they breached the clause 15 which deals with the powers and duties of rugby sub-unions and clause 17 which deals with Members of the Union as Rugby Sub-Unions.
There was no provision in the constitution’s clause 17 that said the members of the TRU attending an AGM should be stripped of their entitlement to vote if they did not hold rugby competitions within their districts.
He said Kitekei’aho’s complaint should have been raised at the annual general meeting and left to the meeting to decide whether or not to disqualify votes.
The TRU went into receivership last year and an arrangement was made to make regular payments of US$1000/TP$2199/NZ$1477 to Carinat Sport Market to cover a TP$300,000/NZ$201,000 debt.
Kitekei’aho claimed when Vunipola became chair of the TRU he stopped the payments. However, Vunipola said he wanted to keep making the monthly payment to Carinat, but the TRU had no money to make the payments.
Vunipola told Radio New Zealand International yesterday the TRU was trying to find a solution to its financial crisis. He told RNZI the TRU could not pay its staff and trying to work with the government to find a way to honour its debts.
He said financial support from rugby’s world body had been withheld for the past year.
Vunipola said he wanted to apologise to Kitekeiʻaho and his family “but it’s time to move on because our rugby has been suffering from poor governance for so long.”
He said that as the interim chair of the TRU he was “working on a voluntary basis to support and help Tonga Rugby to achieve its former glory.”
The main points
- Tonga Rugby Union interim chair Feʻao Vunipola has gone public with his side of the latest dispute to engulf the TRU after former CEO Fuka Kitekei’aho talked to Kaniva News.
- Kitekiʻaho and his supporters have launched an arbitration application claiming Vunipola’s election as the TRU’s interim acting president was unconstitutional.
- Vunipola told Kaniva News he had been advised by his lawyer that Kitekeiʻahoʻs complaint was unconstitutional because it should have been brought under the rules of the Tongatapu Rugby Sub-Union Clubs.
- Vunipola said that as the interim chair of the TRU he was “working on a voluntary basis to support and help Tonga Rugby to achieve its former glory.”