Acting Speaker Tu‘ilakepa’s comments about the quality of English at Tupou College sparks online outrage

Kuo loto mamahi e kau ako tutuku 'a e kolisi ko Tupou' hono tala 'e Looti Tu'ilakepa 'i Fale Alea 'oku 'ikai sai e lea 'Ingilisi' he ako'anga' ni. Ko 'ene lea' 'eni na'e peheni: “‘Oku ke mea’i e ako ko eni ‘a Liahona, na’a ku ako aí, ko e fu’u ako lea fakapālangi ia. Ko e Minisitā Laó pē na’e ako ‘i Toloa, ko e faka’ofa atu e lea fakapālangí ia ai.” Kuo hoko ia ke fai ai ha felauaki he initaneti' pea fakamanamana ha ni'ihi mo leakovi ki he nōpele' ni. 'Oku fehu'ia 'e he ni'ihi foki 'a hono tuunga fakaako 'a ia ne pehē 'e Tu'ilakepa ki he Fale' 'oku nau fa'a tukuaki'i ia na'e 'ikai a'u 'ene ako'. Pea 'oku tukuaki'i 'e he ni'ihi ko e palopalema lahi 'eni ki he fale' 'a hono fakalakanga'i ha taha pehē ki he fatongia mahu'inga' ni.

Lord Tu’ilakepa’s derogatory remarks about the standard of English at Tupou College has sparked an outrage online.

The Acting Speaker said he went to Liahona High school, an English compulsory speaking high school in Tonga and English there was great while in Toloa –  another name for Tupou College  – the standard was  “faka’ofa” (poor).

In Tongan he said: “‘Oku ke mea’i e ako ko eni ‘a Liahona, na’a ku ako aí, ko e fu’u ako lea fakapālangi ia.   Ko e Minisitā Laó pē na’e ako ‘i Toloa, ko e faka’ofa atu e lea fakapālangí ia ai.”

He was reacting to the Minister of Law who, he said, had studied at Tupou College.

The king’s noble made the disparaging comment during a heated debate yesterday after the Minister of Education attempted to clarify to the Acting Speaker the meaning of the word “certify” as it appeared on clause 131 of the law.

As Kaniva Tonga news reported yesterday, there has been uproar in the House since Monday when Lord Tu’ilakepa said the Prime Minister was obliged to tell the House in a letter the reasons why the government considered the six Bills currently before it were urgent.

The government disagreed and said certifying in a letter the bills were urgent only required the Prime Minister to say they were urgent and to sign the letter.

Lord Tu’ilakepa and seven other noble MPs wanted the government to meet face to face with the public to consult with them on the new legislation, but the government disagreed.

The government said it had already done the public consultation process over a radio talk back show led by the Acting Attorney General, ‘Aminiasi Kefu. 

Acting Speaker reacted

Lord Tu’ilakepa accused the government bench of regularly belittling his educational background and often referring to his being a high school dropout.

The MPs were arguing after a letter by the Prime Minister supporting the urgency of the law was rejected by Lord Tu’ilakepa.

The government maintained that the law only required the Prime Minister to certify that the Bills were urgent without giving any reasons.

Acting Speaker not keeping to role – PM

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has accused the Acting Speaker for not keeping to his role as a Chair of the House and not becoming  involved in the MPs debates.

However, Lord Tu’ilakepa continued arguing with the Cabinet Ministers and maintained he was trying to clarify his side of the government’s accusation against him.

Legal advice and impeachment

Policer Minister Mateni Tapueluelu told the House the Cabinet Ministers had a meeting the night before and sought advice from the Solicitor General and Acting Attorney General who concluded that the Speaker’s interpretation of the word certify and the law it included was wrong.

Hon. Tapueluelu told Lord Tu’ilakepa he could be impeached if he had made a wrong decision.

The Acting Speaker said he had been advised by legal experts.

He asked the Minister not to threaten him.

He told the Minister to go ahead and impeach him.

The Bills have still not been tabled because the Acting Speaker is adamant that the government must submit the reasons why the Bills are considered urgent.

Online outrage

Lord Tu’ilakepa’s comments about Tupou College have attracted an outrage from Tupou College ex-students as far away as the United States.

An ex-student in US who goes by the name  Manu Hasata Mafua Tuivai said on a livestreamed video yesterday the noble’s comment was low and belittling.

He said the noble have to be careful of what he says and respect the college.

“Ouaaaaaa teke ue’i ae ‘Uga e Tuilakepa, teke taelata he nofo i Toga,” Tu’ivai also wrote on Facebook.

This translate into Tongan as: “Do not mess with the ‘unga Tu’ilakepa because it will cause you to feel uneasy while staying in Tonga.”

One Facebook group known as My Tongan Online Community which has 18,000 followers has shared the noble’s comment.

It has 131 shares and received 161 comments and 525 reactions.

The comments in Tongan have included threats and abuse.

Some questioned Lord Tu’ilakepa’s educational qualifications and whether this might affect his functioning in his present role.

Some recalled that  in 2010 he was accused of being bribed to sponsor a Colombian drug boss to enter Tonga.

However, some commenters stood by the noble and asked the other commentators to give him a break.

Some said the noble was correct in the way he interpreted the law.

The main points

  • Lord Tu’ilakepa’s derogatory remarks about the standard of English at Tupou has sparked an outrage online.
  • The Acting Speaker said he went to Liahona High school, an English compulsory speaking high school in Tonga and English there was great while in Toloa –  another name for Tupou  – the standard was  “faka’ofa” (poor).
  • There has been uproar in the House since Mondaywhen Lord Tu’ilakepa said the Prime Minister was obliged to tell the House in a letter the reasons why the government considered the six Bills currently before it were urgent.

For more information

Acting Speaker shuts down discussion on new Bills, tells House to come back the next day

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