Prince Ata’s claims in front of Cardinal Mafi at a Catholic Church event that a kava club on his estate was misappropriating money have split the community.
Ata, who was sitting next to the Cardinal, began yelling the allegation, while a speaker was announcing a list of donors who had helped build a new presbytery in Kolovai. One of the donors announced was Toa Ko Pouvalu kava club.
The club is on Prince Ata’s Kolovai estate. Traditionally it belongs to the royal.
The Prince claimed the Toa Ko Pouvalu club had misappropriated money.
The Prince was guest of honour at the official opening of the presbytery last week.
Livestreamed video of the incident appears to show the Cardinal reacting with surprise to the allegations.
The Prince then turned to the Cardinal and appeared to be trying to clarify his claims.
The Prince raised his right hand and shouted in Tongan “nau kai pa’anga nautolu ia,”which roughly translates into English as “they misappropriated money”.
Some guests can be heard laughing, apparently in support of the Prince.
The video of the event was widely shared on Facebook by many Tongan groups and individual Facebook accounts.
One group known as Tonga Felafoaki racked up 1,100 reactions, 111 comments and 582 shares.
It is not known what triggered the Prince’s outburst.
Public reactions have been mixed, with people living at the Prince’s estate of Kolovai and its Hihifo vicinity jumping to the royal’s defence and saying he was just making a joke.
“We still stand by our Prince. We are getting used to his way of having fun with his people,” a commenter wrote on Facebook in Tongan.
“It was just his sense of humour,” one said.
“Yep that’s Ata,” another said.
However, critics said it was extremely disrespectful of the Prince to make such an allegation during a church function in front of the head leader of the Catholic Diocese of Tonga and Niue.
“It was rude of him to make such an allegation while the function was livestreamed,” a critic wrote.
“That’s not how a Prince should behave in public”, another said.
Some supported the Prince and said it was good of him to be frank and make such allegation as a deterrent for those who appear to be corrupt.
Prince Ata and the Mormon church
In 2014 His Majesty King Tupou VI sent the then Prime Minister and soldiers to a church in Haveluloto to persuade the Prince to stop a baptism ceremony that would have made him a Mormon.
However, the following year, the Prince was baptised as a Mormon in Hawai’i without the king’s knowledge.
Prince Ata is the king’s second son and fourth in line to the throne. His birth name is Prince Viliami ʻUnuaki-ʻo-Tonga Lalaka moe ʻEiki Tukuʻaho.
The king later appointed him the chiefly title Ata which entitled him to the estate of Kolovai and the island of ‘Atatā.