PM Pōhiva defends his record on Tuvalu and West Papua; accuses former adviser of using biased sources

    Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva said the bravery of Tuvaluan people in fighting climate  change broke his heart and has called West Papuans “brothers and sisters.”

    The Prime Minister was responding to comments made by his former media adviser and Tongan publisher Kalafi Moala.

    Hon. Pōhiva was angered by accusations made by Moala in a Radio New Zealand report that the tears that he shed during the Pacific Island Forum Leaders Retreat in Tuvalu were insincere.

    The Prime Minister denied that he was a hypocrite who had expressed “sympathy for people of another country while he cannot sympathise with those in his own nation who suffer from natural disasters.”

    Clash

    Moala and Pōhiva, who once campaigned for democracy together, have a tempestuous relationship.

    In 2017 Moala used the front page of Taimi ‘o Tonga newspaper, which he then published, to call on Hon. Pōhiva to step down because of incompetence and accused him of making false promises of good governance and transparency.

    In their latest clash, Hon. Pōhiva accused Moala of quoting people and newspapers in his article who he said were biased against him and his government.

    He said Tonga Ma’a Tonga was financed by people who had petitioned the king to dismiss him and said  Kakalu newspaper had never published a single favourable story about him or his government.

    Moala’s comments partly  referred to complaints of delays in reconstructing damage caused  by Cyclone Gita.

    As Kaniva News reported recently, the Tongan government has said it is constrained  by strict guidelines surrounding donor money which is funding the reconstruction.

    Tuvalu

    The Prime Minister said he had not understood the impact climate change was having on Tuvalu until her went there.

    “Prior to the visit I had heard the Tuvaluan Prime Minister, Hon Enele Sopoaga, tell me on numerous occasions, about the devastating impact that the climate change crisis was having on his country and people,” Hon. Pohiva said.

    “I really did not believe that the impact of climate change on Tuvalu was any different from its impact on Tonga because I have also witnessed in Tonga how climate change and rising sea levels had eroded the coastline.

    “What I did not appreciate until I got to Tuvalu was how tiny and low lying the Tuvaluan atolls were and how thin the layer of topsoil is and therefore the visual image of the devastation blows you away.

    “But I was also moved by the resolve of the Tuvaluan people, especially the youth, who are determined to fight climate change and as their slogan goes, ‘Save Tuvalu, Save the World!’.

    “It broke my heart. The tears I cried were sincere.”

    Brothers and sisters

    The Prime Minister also defended his stance on West Papua, describing the indigenous people as “our brothers and sisters.”

    “We have witnessed in recent years how their human rights have been repeatedly violated,” he said.

    “Representatives of the West Papua people have asked the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders for our help.

    “The Civil Society Organisations of the Pacific and the Pacific Conference of Churches have urged the Pacific Leaders to support the people of West Papua.

    “I think it is the right thing to do, and that is why I spoke strongly in favour of the people of West Papua.

    “In fact the Pacific Islands Forum was set up at the first place because the colonial leaders in the South Pacific Commission refused to discuss the human rights of the colonised people of the Pacific Islands.

    “The Forum had stood up in support of the rights of the Kanaks in New Caledonia and the people of Timor Leste.”

    As we reported in July, West Papuan activist Rosa Moiwend called on Tonga to continue its support or her people’s struggle for independence.

    She told Kaniva News it was important to support Vanuatu’s effort to prepare a resolution to have West Papua placed on the agenda of the United Nations Decolonisation Committee.

    In 2015 the Prime Minister told the United Nations General Assembly that it should help West Papua, which has been occupied by Indonesia for nearly 60 years.

    “Tonga does not condone the injustice, cruel violation of human rights and dignity and brutal treatment in West Papua,” Hon. Pohiva said at the time.

    The main points

    • Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva said the bravery of Tuvaluan people in fighting climate  change broke his heart and has called West Papuans “brothers and sisters.”
    • The Prime Minister was responding to comments made  by his former media adviser and Tongan publisher Kalafi Moala.

    For more information

    Tonga’s PM accused of insincerity at Pacific Forum

    PM defends delay in school reconstruction after Gita, saying funders have ‘very strict guidelines’ for release of money

    Former adviser calls for Tongan PM to resign

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