Ceremony was wrong time and place for speech against bullying say critics, but former winner says she is “relieved”

The speech by Miss Heilala 2018 Kalo Funganitao at this year’s award ceremony has been criticised for being made at the wrong time and the wrong place.

During the final stage of the competition, Funganitao criticised the competition’s organisers for not supporting her when she became the victim of cyber bullying following her win last year.

Her speech and the uproar surrounding it have polarised the South Pacific media and divided the online public.

Some said the incident had been politicised by the government opposition’s supporters, especially the followers of anti-government social media Facebook groups. 

Funganitao was making the speech before she was expected to crown the Miss Heilala 2019/20 but her microphone was turned off after organisers realised she was launching an attack against them.

“Enough is enough. If you have guts to attack a person as a group in such a cowardly way then you can deal with the consequences when she shares her experiences with the entire world,” Funganitao said on the night.

Today she told Stuff: “In all honesty, I am feeling very relieved post pageant. I’m actually pretty good at the moment.”

Tourism businesswoman Yvette Guettenbeil Paea said discrediting the organisers did not do any good.

In Tongan she wrote online: “He ikai ke ma’u ha lelei hono tapalasia e kakai ne nau fai honau lelei tahaa pea mo ngaue’i mai he ngaahi ta’u lahi ke a’u kiha tu’unga ma’olunga pehe ni.”

She said she valued the time and money spent to prepare the celebration for the public to enjoy. She thanked the Minister of Tourism, the Heilala Organising Committee, the sponsors and families of the contestants for spending on the pageant every year.

In Tongan she said: “Kaikehe koe me’a oku ou mahu’inga’ia au aii, koe fu’u ngaue moe fakamole taimi moe $ ki hano teuteu oe Katoanga ni, ke tau alu atu o fiefia ai, ikai ketau hela’ia hano palani pe ko hano ngaue’i. Maloo e ngaue lahi ‘ae Minisita TakiMamata mo ene Potungauee, kae’uma’aa e kau Komiti Uike Heilala, moe kau Sponsors mo kinautolu kau Misi mo honau family, ne fakamole honau taimi moe $ ke tokoni kihe Katoanga faka’ofo’ofa he ta’u kotoa.” 

She said Funganitao may have been right, “but I don’t agree that it was the right place and time.”

Reverend Olympia Kaumatule Vake of the United Methodist Church in US said Funganitao was at fault. She said she was representing the whole of Tonga not just her and her family.

Commenting online, she said: “Ko Kalo pe ia ‘oku to nounou ‘ene fai fatongia … oku ke represent e koe ‘a Tonga Katoa …. Ko e Miss Heilala koha taha ‘oku sio kihe fonua fklukufua ‘o ‘Ikai ko ia pe mo hono Famili.”

There were also reports that some racist comments made during the incident.

Some online commentators believe they were made by people who were drunk.

One commentater, Fotu Kuliha’apai, said in response to a post which supported Miss Funganitao: 

“Miss Heilala is always controversial, but the racist comment is what I am more interested in. I need the fact before we call for his head. Can’t trust any of your sources. I have good sources in Tonga who hates the current government and they haven’t said a thing about it so…I’ll wait.

Support

Some commentators stood by Miss Funganitao:

” I see the pros and cons of what Kalo shared and the occasion on which she shared it,” a commenter wrote.

“Many argue if this was the correct platform to bring to light cyber bullying and the reality of being in a pageant? Was it necessary for her to take it there on this night?

“I agree with everything Kalo said.

“What I wish she did was stand still and complete her duty as the reigning 2018 Miss Heilala and crown the next 2019 Miss Heilala. In such a situation and platform, you must be able to speak your mind but also stand your ground and do your duty.

“She would have gotten her point across while passing the light on to the next Miss Heilala 2019.

“But…I was not there to understand and feel the vibe and her reasoning to immediately leaving after her speech.”

Another wrote: “Lucky Kalo wasn’t my daughter I would sue every friggin one of them for lack of duty of care and being negligent in every way possible! Stop the pageant until the problems are fixed and the DPM needs to check himself…what if that was his daughter? God bless Kalo and her family.”

Prepared

Funganitao told Stuff there were people who did not agree with her action on the night and described the situation as “tense.”

However, she said she had been prepared to face that ahead of the speech. 

“My mother and I had gone to see a lawyer, just to keep her in the loop with some of the things that had been happening,” Funganitao.

“Then then we talked to a lot of our family and friends and people whose opinions we really valued. The decision was that I would just tell everything during my final address. 

“The chances were they were going to cut off the live stream, cut off my mic, but I would just continue regardless and that’s exactly what I did.”

The main points

  • The speech by Miss Heilala 2018 Kalo Funganitao at this year’s award ceremony has been criticised for being made at the wrong time and the wrong place.
  • During the final stage of the competition, Funganitao criticised the competition’ organisers for not supporting her when she became the victim of cyber bullying following her win last year.

For more information

Deputy PM slams Heilala speech, but contestants linked arms in apparent display of solidarity 

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