Sentencing focuses attention on calls for full investigation into PM’s relationship with criminal couple

'Oku taupotu 'i lalo ha fakamatala fakaTonga

Why has nothing been done to remove ‘AKosita Lavulavu from office and why does her husband appear to wield so much influence over the Prime Minister, even though he was thrown out of Parliament for breaching the electoral law?

In the wake of their sentencing last Friday, the relationship between the Lavulavus and Prime Minister Pōhiva Tuʻiʻonetoa has come under even closer scrutiny.

Now veteran Tongan journalist Kalafi Moala has raised concerns about the  need for a proper investigation.

Condemned by the Supreme Court as dishonest and deceitful, ‘Akosita and ‘Etuate Lavulavu have been sentenced to five and six years respectively for their part in a sustained fraud.

Judge Cooper, presiding, described their crime as “the worst sort of dishonesty.”

“The conduct of these defendants would be disgraceful in anyone, but for a member of cabinet, and a man who used his political connections and position to facilitate these frauds, goes beyond just criminally reprehensible,” he said.

Kalafi Moala. Photo/Kaniva Tonga News

Unlike former Democrat Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who fired ‘Akosita from Cabinet as soon as she was charged, Tuʻiʻonetoa has done nothing, claiming he does not have the constitutional power to get rid of her.

As Kaniva News has pointed out time and again, that is simply not true.

The disgraced Cabinet Minister has remained on full pay the whole time.

Meanwhile, her husband ‘Etuate, who she replaced as Member for Vava’u 16 after he was kicked out of Parliament for bribery,  continues to have a close relationship with the Prime Minister.

Moala said last year Tu’i’onetoa relied heavily on ‘Etuate for ideas of how to run the government.

He described ‘Etuate as the most influential official from the ruling party and the main influence on the Prime Minister.

Now he has raised the question of the need for a proper investigation into Tu’i’onetoa‘s relationship with the Lavulavus.

(L-R) Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa and Tourism Minister Akosita Lavulavu

“Questions are raised concerning the huge multi-million pa’anga road projects the Prime Minister and ‘Etuate Lavulavu are involved in,” Moala wrote.

“The Ministry of Infrastructure under ‘Akosita handles all the multimillion infrastructural projects including roadworks and major constructions.”

Moala also said the Prime Minister had ignored the ruling of Justice Cooper and defended the couple in several speeches.

Disgraced

The disgraced former MP was criticised for appearing to act as a spokesman for the Prime Minister, even though he holds no official government office.

Early last year there were complaints in Vava’u after he interfered during parliamentary meetings in Leimātu’a and Hahake districts.

At the end of last year he accompanied the Prime Minister and Cabinet Members on their grand procession for prayer and fasting  around the kingdom, speaking for the government apparently even making fun of the Prime Minister.

Lavulavu is known by the title “engineer” in some circles for his role in creating the People’s Party and persuading some Democrat  MPs to abandon the late ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s party and join Tu’i’onetoa.

‘Etuate is regarded as having been instrumental in devising the government’s controversial multi-million roading policy. Contracts for the project went to companies with strong links to the government.

Apart from an earlier conviction in the United States, ‘Etuate is also facing a lawsuit after he was accused of forging a landlord’s signature in Vava’u from whom he leased land.

In 2000 he was sued by Late Prince Tu’ipelehake for damages and unlawful cultivation of his land. Chief Justice Ward ordered Lavulavu to quit the land and pay $7,905 damages. Chief Justice Ward was scathing about aspects of Lavulavu’s testimony during the trial,  saying: “I felt he was willing to say almost anything that seemed to suit the moment with a repeated disregard for the truth.”

FAKAMATALA FAKATONGA

Ko e fehu’i mahu’inga ia ‘oku ‘eke’i he taimi ni’ pe ko e hā ko ā kuo fu’u pipiki pehē fau ai ‘a e palēmia ‘i he ongo Lavulavu kuo mahino ‘ena kaiha’asi ‘a e pa’anga ‘a e fonua’ pea ko e hia mamafa ia? ‘Oku loloto ange hoha’a ko ‘eni he mahino ne ‘ikai tuku ha ivi ‘o e palēmia’ he’ene taukapo’i e totonu ‘a Akosita ‘aki e kupu 23. A’u ‘o tangi mai he letioo’ pea mo ne tukuaki’i e ngaahi ako siasi hange ne nau fai e hia tatau mo e ongo Lavulavu ki he pa’anga tokoni ‘a e pule’anga’ ki he ngaahi ako’anga’. Pea ne mei hua pe ia kapau ne ‘ikai ha toe kupu te ne ‘oange hano mafai ke ne tuku ai ki tu’a ‘a Akosita. A ia ko e  kupu 51(3)(a) pea ka fai ange ‘o iku ‘a Akosita ke ne ‘eke’i fakalao hono tuku ia ki tu’a ‘uhi ko e kupu 23 pea tuku ke ne ‘eke kae malu’i ‘e he palēmia ia mo e pule’anga ‘aki ‘a e kupu 51(3)(a) he ko ia pe na’a ne fili ke minisitaa’, lolotonga ne ne ‘ilo pe kuo faka’ilo ‘a Akosita, pea ‘oku fa’iteliha pe ia ke ne tuku ki tu’a. Kuo fakamatala’i mai ‘e he fakamaau lahi ‘a e lanu totonu ‘o Akosita ko e fefine ta’efaitotonu. Kae  kei fakalaloa’i pe ia ‘e he palēmia’. Ko e lekooti ‘eni ‘i ha toe pule’anga’ ko e hū pe ‘a ha minisitā mei he kapineti’ ‘o hangatonu ‘o ngāue pōpula. Kuo fakatokanga mai ‘a Kalafi Moala kuo ‘i ai ‘a e  ui ke fakatotolo’i ‘a e palēmia’ mo e ongo Lavulavu’ pea tautefito ki he mahina ‘e taha fakamuimui ne kei tuku pe ‘a Akosita ‘i he potungāue ki he ngāue lalahi lolotonga kuo mahino kuo na halaia pea te ne ngāue pōpula’. ‘Oku taau ke fai ‘a e fakatotolo ko ‘eni he kuo ‘ikai kei falala’ia ‘a e palēmia’  he lahi ‘ene ngaahi fakamatala ta’emo’oni kuo fafanga’aki ‘a e fonua’ fekau’aki mo e ngaahi tukuaki’i ‘o ia mo hono pule’anga’.

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