Fiji airline chases Tonga Rugby League after it issues worthless cheque for TP$38,488.60

Kuo pusi mo kumā e kautaha vakapuna Fiji Airways mo e kautaha liiki 'a Tonga' hili 'eni 'a e mahino ne 'oatu ha sieke loi ke totongi'aki 'a e mo'ua e līki' ki he kautaha vakapuna' ni. 'Oku pehē ko e sieke 'eni fe'unga mo e pa'anga Tonga 'e TP$38,488.60 ka ne 'ikai ha pa'anga fe'unga ia 'i he pangikee'. Ko e talu mei 'Āokosi 2018 e fetakai holo 'a e kautaha vaka' ni mo e kau poate' mo 'enau feinga fetu'utaki mo e sea mālōloo' Stan Moheloa kae 'uma'ā e Sekelitali Seniale ki mu'a' Tavake Fangupō ki ha founga ke totongi ange ai 'enau sēniti ka 'oku mahino mai 'eni 'e 'ikai lava fai ha me'a he lolotonga' ni kae 'oua kuo fokotu'u ha poate fo'ou. Kuo veteki foki 'e he Fakamaau'anga Lahi' ia 'a e poate' pea tu'utu'uni ke fili ha kau talēkita fo'ou. Ko e tokoua 'oku' na kei tokanga'i 'a e līki' he taimi ni' ko e Palesiteni, Sēmisi Sika pea mo e 'Āteni Seniale Le'ole'o' kuo fokotu'u 'e he fakamaau'anga' ke hko ko e tokotaha fale'i fakataimi kae 'oua kuo fili fo'ou e poate'. Lōua 'a e ongo ma'u lakanga ko 'eni 'oku 'ikai ha na mafai ke faitu'utu'uni ki ha me'a fakapa'anga he lolotonga' ni.

Tonga’s National Rugby League is in trouble again after issuing a bad cheque of TP$38,488.60 to Fiji Airways to pay for a bill.

It is understood the airline had been chasing TNRL Board former members for the bad cheque since August 2018.

The Fiji Airways agent in Tonga, Lavili Maka, confirmed to Kaniva news yesterday the debt was still outstanding. 

“I haven’t received anything or been paid. I’m still trying but to no avail and no luck,” she said in an email.

The lack of responses from the Board members following the incident has drawn in Tonga’s Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu and TNRL President Semisi Sika.

As Kaniva news reported on Tuesday, the Supreme Court had dissolved TNRL Board and ordered a special meeting to elect new members this month or next month.

The Court has appointed Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu as Amicus Curiae.

Kefu’s responsibility is to make sure a new Board is elected, then hand over all TNRL property to the new board directors.

Both Kefu and Hon. Sika have no executive powers over the organisation since the dissolution, according to the Acting Attorney General.

This means they cannot make a decision regarding payment of the debt owed and the debt can only be resolved once a new board is set up, according to an e-mail seen by Kaniva news.

Kefu blamed former Chair Stan Moheloa and former General Secretary Tavake Fangupō for the situation regarding the cheque.

President Sika said Fangupō had the responsibility to make sure there was sufficient money in the bank before issuing any cheque.

Warning against bank balance

The Acting Attorney General wanted to know if the TNRL had any money in the bank.

Fangupō responded in an email that TNRL had a balance of about TP$40,000 in its account with ANZ bank.

But President Sika warned the money belonged to the Mate Ma’a Tonga players.

Hon. Sika said the money was collected from sponsors during the Mate Ma’a Tonga – Kangaroos and Kiwi tournament in October to be given to the players as bonus.

He said Fangupō should have known this because he was the Board’s former General Secretary.

Hon. Sika said the sponsorship money was deposited in the bank after he planned to approach the government for more funding to add to each players’ share.

He said he was ready to distribute the money.  

Contact with TNRL Board

Maka said she had had no recent communication from former TNRL chair Moheloa over the debt.

Kaniva news has contacted Moheloa and Fangupō for comment.

There was no response from Moheloa. However, Fangupō sent us a number of former Board members contacts and asked us to contact them for clarifications.

“All I have been doing is to help Lavi at Fiji Airways resolve all this because no one from board responded or bothered to contact her directly regarding outstanding payment,” Fanguipō said.

“It’s sad to hear when things like this come up and everyone starts pointing fingers to blame someone for other people’s mistakes.”

Fiji Airways

Maka said TNRL has been a good customer of Fiji Airways and she trusted Hon. Sika for being upfront with any payment.

In Tongan she said: “Koe taimi ‘o Semisi Sika na’e ‘ikai ha to nounou he na’ane totongi ‘e ia pea na’aku pehe pe ‘e tatau pe ka kuo ki’I tonounou ‘eni ia.”

This translates into English as: “In Semisi Sika’s time there was no shortfalls because he paid it and I thought the same thing would have happened, but this time it was in trouble.”

In response to Maka’s comments, Hon. Sika said he had personally paid all the expenses for TNRL travels before and settled any arranged debts, but this time he would not do it.

He claimed there were people who were trying to take over the organisation and leadership. He told Maka to ask those people to pay the debt.

In a previous interview, Hon Sika said TNRL Board still owed him tens of thousands of pa’anga.

Editor’s comments:

When Kaniva news asked Maka for a comment from the Airline she pleaded with us not to publish the story.

While we understand that she had concerns about the story going public, we believe this is a matter of public interest.

Rugby League in Tonga has become a sport well supported by Tongan fans all over the world.

The government has regularly funded it using public money, but the trouble within the TNRL Board appears to have lasted for a long time.

In 2016, the Supreme Court said there were hundreds of thousands of pa’anga unaccounted for in the TNRL. It said accounts had remained unaudited for years, the board’s constitution had been violated, fraudulent elections had been held and court orders ignored.

As Kaniva news reported at the time, these unaudited accounts included those for the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 financial years.

In late 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed the Board and ordered the TNRL to make sure it held a new Board election on July 15.

The main points

  • Tonga’s National Rugby League is in trouble again after issuing a bad cheque of TP$38,488.60 to Fiji Airways to pay for a bill.
  • It is understood the airline had been chasing TNRL Board former members for the bad cheque since August 2018.
  • The Fiji Airways agent in Tonga, Lavili Maka, confirmed to Kaniva news yesterday the debt was still outstanding. 

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