King Tupou VI closed Parliament for the November elections last week, still apparently dissatisfied with Parliamentarians’ performance.
Having warned the government to stay out of business earlier this year, he is still clearly unhappy with the Ministry of Public Enterprises, which oversees many of the government’s quasi-business operations.
In May His Majesty admonished the government and Parliament for not keeping their promises to address his concerns over the country’s economy, education and health issues.
Speaking at the opening of the mid-year Parliamentary session, the King said he was fed up with the House and the government, saying they gave him the same responses every year without doing anything further to resolve these issues.
The king said the government should not run businesses, a statement opposed at the time by Justice Minister Sāmiu Vaipulu.
“A question was raised in the Cabinet whether the king’s concerns included the government’s operating the Lulutai Airlines,” Vaipulu said.
“I told the Prime Minister Lulutai Airlines is our means of transportation from Tonga to Vava’u. It is the responsibility of the government to create that route so we can use it. As a result, the aircraft must fly in that route we have prepared. And that’s the answer to His Majesty.”
Lulutai airlines was launched amidst a storm of controversy over the fate of its CEO, the government’s refusal to help the former carrier, Real Tonga, and the appointment of a board heavy with Cabinet members with no apparent experience in aviation, including former Minister of Infrastructure, ‘Akosita Lavulavu, who was later jailed for fraud.
Vaipulu caused a furore in 2013 before the New Zealand-owned Chatham Airlines was forced out of Tonga. He welcomed the controversial Chinese M60 aircraft to Tonga.
Disgraced politician and convicted fraudster ‘Etuate Lavulavu was vocal in promoting airline interests when he was a Cabinet Minister. Both were initially quiet when Tu’i’onetoa announced the setting up of the Lulutai airlines.
In his speech closing Parliament last week, the King was clearly still unhappy with the government and Parliament, although he used more temperate language.
He said it was vital to ensure tax payers’ money was used wisely.
In his speech, which was read by Lord Ve’ehala, His Majesty said some government ministries, like the Ministry for Public Enterprises, had filed incomplete reports on how they spent their money.
Prime Minister Tu’i’onetoa is also Minister for Public Enterprises and was appointed to the Lulutai board.
Despite the fact that Parliament passed several Bills during the year, there was room for further improvement, the King said.
The King named drugs, Covid-19 and climate change as the major challenges facing the kingdom.
Tonga has a major problem with a domestic drug trade and smuggling by South American cartels who sail through use the Central Pacific Islands on the way to Australia.
While the global pandemic has not reached Tonga, the country should be prepared to deal with it, the King said.
He said the effects of climate change and the border closure mean the country had to be careful about food security.
The General Election will be held on November 18.