Finance Minister’s response refutes claims gov’t spends $300,000 on ‘Aho‘eitu image; statue to stay at St George Palace

Ne 'ikai fakamoleki 'e he pule'anga' ha $3 kilu he 'īmisi 'o 'Aho'eitu', 'o hangē ko ia kuo tufaki holo he mītia fakasōsiale'. Ko e me'a 'ofa pe 'eni 'a Palōfesa Viliami Toluta'u ne fakataumu'a ke fakamanatu 'a e hisitōlia 'o e 'uluaki Tu'i Tonga ko 'eni'. Na'e pehē 'e he Minisitā Pa'anga': 'I he 'aho ni, oku 'ikai te u lave'i ha fakamole 'e taha a e pule'anga felave'i ki hono fakatau 'o e Imisi koeni. Ko e me'a 'ofa pe a e tokotaha na'a ne fa'u. Kapau 'e iai ha fakamole 'e hoko, ko hono katoanga'i pe pea mo hono fokotu'u fakalelei ki he feitu'u 'e fiema'u ke tu'u pau kiai ai, pe tu'u pe he St. George pe ko e Pa'ake 'i Popua."

The Minister of Finance said he was unaware of any single expense the government had to bear for the importation of the sculpture of King ‘Aho’eitu, the first Tu’i Tonga.

Hon. Tu’i’onetoa was responding to claims on social media that said the government should be using any money allocated to the statue on helping improve people’s standard of living.

He said if the government was responsible for any costs they could be for the removal of the statue to Popua National Park and any accompanying ceremony.

Dr. Siosiua Lafitani Pouvalu claimed on Facebook the government spent more than TP$300,000 on the statue.

In Tongan he wrote: “‘Oku lahi ‘aupito e talanga he fakatata pe ‘imisi ni, pea ‘oku kau ai mo e ngaahi ‘uhinga ki he pa’anga ne ngaue’aki, ‘oku pehee ko e 3 kilu tupu.”

The sculpture was meant to be installed at the junction of Vuna road and the turnoff into Popua village.

However,  because the preparatory work for its foundation was delayed by bad weather, the government decided to install it temporarily in front of St George palace. 

In a statement, Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva said after the statue had been installed at the palace, he and its creator, Professor Viliami Toluta’u, agreed to leave it there permanently.

As Kaniva news reported in May, Professor Touta’u, from Brigham Young University in Hawai’i, met with the Prime Minister and later sent an invoice of US$100,000 as cost for the image.

The cost was not discussed during the meeting with the Prime Minister, according to Chief Secretary.

However, Prof. Toluta’u later told the government he had found a sponsor to fund the sculpture.

The Prime Minister said during the ceremony to install the statue that he was first approached by Prof. Toluta’u about a sculpture of ‘Aho’eitu in 2018.

“Professor Toluta’u had heard that I was leading the work of converting the former rubbish dump in Popua into a national park,” the Prime Minister said.

“He came to me with an offer to build a sculpture of ‘Aho’eitu.”

Hon Pohiva said he  fully embraced the offer for two reasons.

“First was the knowledge that the history of ‘Aho’eitu, the first Tu’i tonga is centred on Popua and its neighbouring islands of Siesia and Nukunukumotu.

“In addition there is also the network of ‘sia heu lupe’ or pigeon mounds’ in Popua.

“The second reason why I fully embraced Professor Toluta’u’s offer was the fact that his Majesty King Tupou VI, was christened Prince ‘Aho’eitu, and that we would be celebrating his majesty’s 60th birthday this year.”

Hon Pohiva said he was indebted to Prof. Toluta’u for his dedication and labour of love.

“Above all I am indebted to him for his perseverence in spite of the criticism and spiteful comments made in the social media regarding this work of art,” the Prime Minister said.

“I am also indebted to Brigham Young University in Hawai’i, which is represented here today by Dr. Rose Ram, for giving Professor Toluta’u the time, space and resources to complete this beautiful work of art.”

The statue

The statue of King ‘Aho’eitu is shown holding a sika, or javelin. He won a javelin throwing competition againt his brothers.

Several kupesi, or geometric designs, are carved on his tapa cloth. One of them is the footprint of the tuli bird – a symbol of the Tangaloa clan.

There is also a depiction of the hoi plant, which is poisonous.

ʻAhoʻeitu is depicted wearing a fāʻonelua necklace.

The main points

  • The Minister of Finance said he was unaware of any single expense the government had to bear for the importation of the sculpture of King ‘Aho’eitu, the first Tu’i tonga.
  • Hon. Tu’i’onetoa was responding to claims on social media that said the government should be using any money allocated to the statue on helping improve people’s standard of living.

For more information

Statue of first king of Tonga installed in front of St George palace

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