Rugby madness and royal visit brought out the red and white in Tonga and New Zealand

October – 2018 round-up

That game

October will be remembered for the almost incessant build-up to the Mata Ma’a-Kangaroos game in Auckland.

In the end Tonga lost 34-16, but the result wasn’t the reason the game will be remembered.

It was the game Tongan fans felt should have been theirs in the World Cup and the ones where they proved they were good enough to take on a tier one team.

King Tupou VI spoke directly to the team at a private reception at Atalanga. He told them Topou I had prepared his warriors for battle during the civil war in Tonga.

After the game,  Tongan captain Sika Manu  told the thousands of supporters at the Mt Smart stadium: “The boys gave everything.” 

Mate Ma’a Tonga united Tongans everywhere, with fans from Tonga, Australia and the United States flying in to watch.

Princess Angelika said Mate Ma’a Tonga  reinforced pride in the kingdom’s virtues.

The Guardian described Tonga as “terrific in their energy and work rate” and said that for large periods of the match they had kept the Kangaroos “absolutely scrambling.”

The New Zealand Herald said that despite losing, Tonga had made the case for playing more international matches.

Read more: January 2018 round-up, April 2018 round-up, June 2018 round- up

Royal visit

October ended with a royal visit that made a tremendous impression on the kingdom.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle flew into Tonga on October 25 and were met by Princess Angelika.

They wore the colours of Tonga during their visit, with Meghan Merkle in a red dress and Prince Harry in a light weight white suit.

They attended a private audience with King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipauʻu followed by an official reception and dinner at Consular House.

On October 26 they met with Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva..

On a visit to Tupou College they dedicated two forest reserves to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy.

The royal couple were entertained by students from the college with a song about mosquitos that had them in stitches.

During other performances Princess Angelika could be seen explaining what was happening.

The Princess accompanied the royals on a tour of the Fa’onelua Centre, where they visited an exhibition celebrating Tongan handicrafts and products.

This was their first visit to Tonga.

Quarantine

Passengers taking ‘umu and fish on flights from Tonga to New Zealand benefitted from a new agreement with Biosecurity New Zealand that allows them to get through quarantine faster.

The Ministry of Agriculture has signed a memorandum of understanding that covers the quarantine certification of food taken into New Zealand.

Head of Biosecurity New Zealand Roger Smith said the agreement meant Tongan passengers would bypass long queues in quarantine when they landed in New Zealand.

He said Tonga posed a low biosecurity risk to New Zealand.

Toxic lagoon

The Ministry of Fisheries declared the largest inland lagoon in Tongatapu was toxic in October.

Fanga’uta lagoon was declared a marine reserve in 1974, but has been in a poor state for some years.

A range of factors have been blamed for its condition, including pollution from sewage and pesticides.

Hon. Fifita, whose constituency was part of Fanga’uta lagoon, said the water was polluted by plastic bags and rotting metal.

Lord Tu’ikepa  said the public should be notified that they should not fish in that area.

November

Dialysis basis of visa decision

The New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal has granted a Tongan man and his son resident visas, partly because of the lack of dialysis facilities in the kingdom.

The Tribunal ruled that Peniola ‘Ahofono and his son had exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature that would make it unjust or unduly harsh for them to be deported from New Zealand.

‘Ahofono’s wife and adult daughter are New Zealand residents.  

He arrived in New Zealand in February 2008 and was joined by his wife and children in March 2009.

For the past decade he worked as a baker for a company that manufactures pies and held a series of Essential Skills work visas.

His wife held a series of work visas until December 2013 when she was unable to obtain further temporary visas because of her chronic kidney disease.

The Tribunal said the wife had end-stage renal failure secondary to diabetic nephropathy. She receives  dialysis  at  a  community  dialysis  centre,  three  times  a   week.

The appeals were based on the need for the wife to remain in New Zealand as she had been receiving dialysis for four years and such treatment was not available in Tonga.

‘Amanaki’s allegations mostly untrue

Auditor General Sefita Tangi has found most of the allegations raised by PSA head Mele ‘Amanaki’s petition against seven Ministers, including the Prime Minister, to be untrue.

He said the issues raised were caused by procedural shortfalls.

The Auditor did not report any breach of the constitution or any misappropriation of public funds as alleged in ‘Amanaki’s the petition.

The Auditor General recommended that the government should refer some of the complaints to the Public Service Commission.

Most of the allegation fell outside the Auditor General’s remit. He could not comment on the government’s financial statements as the matters needed expert legal advice.

‘Amanaki’s petition alleged that International Computer consultant Piveni Piukala’s contract issued by the government in 2015 was illegal, but the Auditor General said he was satisfied that the contract was legal.

The petition alleged that the public funds at the Tonga Tourism Authority  had been abused, but the Auditor General said the Authority had the power to choose an independent auditor.

Help for drop-outs

High school dropout rates in Tonga have reached 20 percent and many young people have no other way of learning new skills that could make them employable.

However, Tonga’s Minister for Internal Affairs, Losaline Ma’asi said a new World Bank programme would help overcome some of the barriers to students finishing high school.

Hon. Ma’asi said the Skills and Employment for Tongans (SET) project would provide financial help for poorer families.

It would also help  improve the quality of courses in areas that were most likely to lead to successful labour migration to Australia and New Zealand.

Saving money

The government has saved more than TP$2 million on the Popua Park and Golf Course project.

An independent report by the Pacific Engineering Consultant Group (PECG) showed the government has spent only TP$648,000  on the project.

The report said if the project had been outsourced to a private company it would have cost TP$.9 million. If it had been done the Ministry of Infrastructure it would have cost TP$1.7 million.

Finance Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa said money had been saved by hiring daily workers at low rates and hiring machinery from the Ministry of Infrastructure and only paying for the petrol.

He said prisoners at Hu’atolitoli had also been employed.

December

PM’s wife dies

Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau’u and the Prime Minister’s family shared a touching moment, as foreign dignitaries turned out to commemorate the life of Tonga’s First Lady.

Neomai Tu’itupou Pōhiva was buried at Telekava 1 community cemetery in Kolomotu’a, Nuku’alofa after a service at  the Free Wesleyan church in Sopu.

The Prime Minister’s 70-year-old wife, died after a long battle with cancer.

Thousands of people took to Facebook to show their respects for the woman most regarded as the “mother of democrats” in Tonga.

She was described as “a kind-hearted lady” who always stood by her husband until the end of her life in his long time fight to bring democracy to Tonga.

Edwards

Former Police Minister and MP lawyer William Clive Edwards Snr called for the king to re-dissolve Parliament and set up an interim government.

He claimed the nation’s political status had deteriorated and an independent commission should be set up to investigate Cabinet ministers.

He said the government had failed to explain what had happened to the TP$74 million  he said the Auditor General claimed was missing.

Edwards, a long-time political enemy of Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, claimed Tonga was moving towards dictatorship and autocracy.

The Director of the Tonga National Sports Institute, ‘Ikani Taliai, said Edwards’ allegations were only made to discredit the government.

He said that if the king dissolved Parliament again the people would do the same thing they did after last year’s dissolution by re-electing the same people in the current government.

Jnr Fa

New Zealand-born Tongan boxer Uaine Junior Fa may be going up against WBC world champion Deontay Wilder in what is being called the “ultimate fight.”

Speculation about the fight came a month after Fa said a bout with heavyweight champion Joseph Parker was inevitable and something he wanted to happen sooner rather than later.

However, Fa’s manager, Mark Keddell, said there were no immediate plans for Fa to fight Parker.

Fa’s most recent win came in Christchurch where he knocked out Argentine boxer Rogelio Omar Rossi in round one. It was his 16th straight win.

The fight with Wilder is being touted for March or April 2019.

Meth threat

Drug dealers are smuggling guns as well as methamphetamine into the kingdom, according to a New Zealand television report.

Veteran Pacific journalist Barbara Dreaver reported claims by a gang member that guns were being smuggled in from America and China.

“The Chinese people bring them in from China mixed in with imported goods,” the syndicate member said.

The Salvation Army has described the sale of P in the kingdom as a “tsunami” and a police task force has made 96 drug-related arrests since April.

Tongan police said they were not well resourced or prepared to deal with the level of drug dealing and smuggling.

Increasing numbers of criminal deportees from Australia and the US have been blamed for the growing drug trade.

PM’s successor

As the year ended Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva said he had a person in mind who could replace him as party leader when he stepped down.

Speaking exclusively to Kaniva news, the 77-year-old political veteran said he had picked his potential successor after assessing members’ “commitment and sacrifice” to the Paati Temokalati ‘o e ‘Otu Motu Anga’ofa (the Democracy Party).

Asked whether he could release the name of his possible successor, Hon. Pōhiva declined, saying it was not yet time for him to publicly announce the name.

Hon. Pōhiva also declined to confirm whether he would leave politics after his next three years in leading the government.

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