The king will need to lead a major political reform before his wish that the right people are elected to Parliament can be fulfilled.
His Majesty is clearly unhappy with Parliament and what he sees as its failure to deal with the major crises facing the island kingdom.
Twice this year – most recently at the closing of Parliament – he has expressed his displeasure at what he sees as the MPs’ failure, especially on drugs.
Nobles MP for the Niuas, Lord Fusitu’a, told the Guardian the king’s speech was “a guiding light. He’s the only apolitical body in the constitution so his assessment of a government of the day is always taken into account.”
That may be a sign that the people will expect more from the government. However, it may be the very nature of Parliament and the presence of Nobles who are not popularly elected that are the stumbling block. What is needed is the creation of a fully democratic Parliament that can fulfil the king’s vision by allowing people to vote for the best MPs – and that means MPs who are elected on their merits, not because of their ancestry.
While Tonga underwent major political reforms in 2010, they did not go far enough. They left the Nobles holding too many cards and too much power over who runs the country.
The king has repeatedly called for the people to vote wisely and make sure the right politicians represent them, but nothing will happen in a system based on a constitution that has been described as the worst among all Commonwealth countries.
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The people can choose the best candidates to sit in the house on election day, but after that major problems loom. The elected politicians will face another political campaign for the election of a Prime Minister. Since 2010 it has been proved that the involvement of the nine Noble MPS, who are not elected or vetted in any way by the electorate, is a problem.
The Nobles will always be the kingmakers. To control Parliament they only need to persuade five of the popularly elected members to come on side and that means they can determine who will be the Prime Minister and the Speaker.
In 2010, when the Democrats took power, everybody expected the PTOA would form the government because they won the most seats. However, this did not happen because the Nobles and the Independents outnumbered the majority of people’s MPs in the vote for the premiership. The Nobles’ MPs continue to be able to hold power even if they have been convicted or accused of serious crimes.
After the 2019 election brought in the Tu’i’onetoa government, Lord Tu’ilakepa was appointed to Cabinet, even though he had been convicted of firearms charges after a series of drug raids across the kingdom in 2010. In another case, Lord Nuku was fined in the Supreme Court and ordered to pay the current Lord Luani TP$5,556,000 in compensation for a dispute over a block of land in Malapo. This raised serious concerns among Democrats.
As we reported at the time, Under Clause 23 of the constitution, no civil servant or Member of Parliament convicted of a criminal offence can hold office under the government or be qualified to vote for nor to be elected a representative of the Legislative Assembly, unless he or she has received from the King a pardon, together with a declaration that he is free from the provisions of this clause.
However, Acting Attorney General ‘Aminiasi Kefu said at the time that Clause 23 of the Constitution and Section 37 of the Land Acts only applied if the Noble was convicted in the Supreme Court of criminal offences that entailed a jail sentence of two years or more.
He said Lord Nuku was not convicted in the Supreme Court of criminal offence. Moreover, while Clause 65 said a candidate for Parliament had to get a written clearance from the Supreme Court and Magistrate’s Court showing they had no record of outstanding orders before they could register as a candidate, that clause did not apply to the Noble’s MPs.
Can we continue to have a system where there is even the perception that there is one law for ordinary MPs and another for the Nobles?
What is clear now is that the Nobles will always have the opportunity to entice five elected MPs – effectively stealing five MPs from the people – by horse trading to sell the Premiership, and the most important ministerial positions like Minister of Finance, Education and Infrastructure to the people’s MPs especially the independents. This is extremely unfair.
The Democrats faced the same hurdles in 2014 and in 2018, but Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva had the skills to make a difficult deal to get the votes of the Independent MPs. Now ‘Akilisi is dead and the PTOA Party is in great disarray. The current system will not work for them if they cannot sort themselves out.
The current system must be reformed so that the country can have a proper system based around political parties. Today democracy means a government based on political parties, but Tonga has so far not accepted it. The existence of the nine Noble MPs in the House and their power to influence the formation of a government proves why it is important for Tonga to accept the party system. Only a party system can successfully form a government that is well organised and work harmoniously according to the policies that can be created from its political leanings.
The king must work with Parliament to complete the democratisation of politics in Tonga so that his wish that only the best people are elected to Parliament is fulfilled.
TO’O ME’A LALAHI ‘I HE ONGOONGO FAKATONGA’
‘Oku meimei ko e Tonga kotoa ‘oku nau fiefia he kei tokanga mai ‘a e Tama Tu’i’ ki he kakai ke nau fili fakapotopoto mo fili ‘a e kakai tonu ke fakalele ‘a e pule’anga’. Me’apango pe ‘e ‘ikai lava hoko hono finangalo’ ‘o na ia he koe’uhi ko e sisitemi fakapolitikale lolotonga ‘oku fakalele ‘aki ‘a Tonga’ te ne kei fakaai pe ha pule’anga ‘e ‘ikai taau mo e faka’amu ‘a e kakai’ pehē ki hono finangalo’ . Ko e me’a ‘oku tonu ke fai’ na’a lava ke ne finangalo kae fakalelei’i ‘a e sisitemi’. Ko hono mo’oni’, ko e sisitemi fakapolitikale lolotonga ‘a Tonga’ ‘oku palopalema pea ‘oku ‘ikai ko e sisitemi ia na’e loto ki ai ‘a e kakai’ mo e hou’eiki’ ‘o fakapaasi ki mu’a he 2010 ke liliu ki ai ‘a e fa’unga politikale ‘o e fonua’. Na’e li’aki ‘a e fokotu’u ia ko ia’ ‘a ia ne ‘osi hono savea’i pea tohi e ola ko ia’ ‘e ha komisoni ne sea ai ‘a e fakamaau lahi ‘a Tonga he ‘aho ko ia’, ko Gordon Ward. Na’e si’aki ‘a e fokotu’utu’u ia ko ia’ kae toe fa’u pe ‘e he pule’anga ia ‘o e ‘aho ko ia’ ‘a ia ko e pule’anga ‘o Looti Sevele’ ki mu’a e 2010 ‘enau konisitūtone mo ‘enau fokotu’utu’u ‘o fai’aki ‘a e liliu ‘a ‘eni ia kuo tau sio mata hono palopalema’ he ‘aho’ ni pea kuo toutou houhau ai ‘a e tama tu’i’. Ki mui he hili ‘a e liliu 2010 ne ‘omi ai ‘e he pule’anga ‘o Tu’ivakanoo’ hili ‘enau pule’anga’ ‘a e mataotao he lao fakakonisitutone ‘a e kominiueli ke ne vakai’i e konisitutone na’e fai ‘aki ‘a e liliu’ ko ia’ hili ‘enau sio tonu he fu’u palopalema ‘a e konisitūtone’. Pea ne fakaha tonu ‘e he mataotao ne ha’u ‘o e fai ‘a e vakai’i ko ia’, ko e konisitūtone ma’olalo taha ia pea ta’efakatemokalati ‘i he ngaahi fonua kotoa ‘o e Kominiueli’. Pea ko ‘etau lele ko ‘eni ‘oku tau lolotonga fetakai he mafai ‘o e konisitūtone ma’olalo ko ia’. Kuopau ai ki he Tama’ ke ne toe fai ha liliu pe ko hono fakafoki e liliu ne fai’ ki he me’a ne ‘osi fai e felotoi ki ai ka na’e ‘ikai fai ia’. Kuo mahino talu mei he 2010 ‘a e kei ikuna pe ‘e he PTOA ‘a e ola ‘o e fili’ ‘o meimei ke fili atu ‘e he kakai ‘a e toko 9 pe 10 mei he toko 17 pea toenga ko e kau Tau’atāina. Ka e pango’ ne ‘osi e fili ‘a e kakai’ ne hoko leva ki he taimi fili palemia’ ne hu mai e kau fakafofonga nopele ia ‘e toko 9 ne fili pe ‘e he toko 33 ‘o fakatau ‘e kinautolu ‘a e kau lele Tau’ataina ne nau fo’i he toko 9 pe 10 ‘a e PTOA ‘o nau pule’anga kinautolu pea ne hoko ia ko e palopalema. He ko e fili ē ‘a e kakai kuo ikuna e PTOA ‘o nau tokolahi kae tokosi’i e kau lele tau’ataina’, ka e toe ‘i ai e fo’i hētolo fakapolitikale fakapoto ia ‘o li ai ki tu’a e ikuna ia ‘a e kakai’ kae pule’anga kinautolu ia ne tokosi’i ia mo e kau nopele’ ‘o hoko leva e pule’anga ko ia’ ko e pule’anga ‘oku ne fai ‘a e loto ‘o e tokosi’i (minority) kae li’ekina e loto ia ‘o e tokolahi’ (majority)ne nau vouti he ‘aho fili. Pea ko ‘ene palopalema’ ia. Hange pe ko ia kuo tau sio mata ki he fua ko ia’ ko e minisitā he pule’anga ‘o Tu’i’onetoa’ ko Looti Tu’ilakepa na’e ‘i ai hono tukuaki’i mamafa kau ki he faito’o konatapu’. Ka kuo hoko ia ko e minisitā ‘o e kapineti’. Tala mai ange ‘e taha pe ko ha fili lelei taha ia ‘a e kakai? ‘Ikai. Ka ko e sisitemi lolotonga’ ‘oku ne fakaava ‘e ia ‘a e matapā ke kei hokohoko atu ‘a e fa’ahinga fili palopalema ko ia’. ‘Oku ‘i he tu’i’ ke fai ha fakalelei’i ‘o e tūkunga ko ‘eni ‘aki hono mafai’ fakakonisitutone’ ka ‘ikai ko e feinga ke solova e palopalema ‘oku ne toutou fakatokanga mai ki ai ke ma’u ha pule’anga lelei taha ‘e faingata’a ia ke hoko.