COMMENTARY: Is the PAK still operating?
Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa has left the name of the Tonga People’s Party – the Paati ‘A e Kakai or PAK off his campaign literature.
The Prime Minister has yet to announce a candidate list and it looks as some Cabinet members, including the Minister of Education and Minister of Finance, will run as independents.
Cabinet Ministers Vātau Hui and Poasi Tei, who defected from the PTOA Party after ‘Akilisi Pōhiva died and formed the government before the People’s Party was officially announced, are not running under the PAK banner.
There have been rumours that some independent candidates, including the Governor of Ha’apai Viliami Hingano, would run for PAK but he has yet to post a banner to Facebook.
Perhaps the Prime Minister will announce his candidate’s list before the election, but the lack of promotion at this stage of the Party and its name is baffling.
The lack of the PAK name in the election campaigns raises many questions, including the suspicion that the PAK is no longer operating. The lack of promotion of the PAK Party during the election campaign raises the question of whether Tu’i’onetoa is uncertain about forming the next government.
If that is the case, than it also raises questions about what happened to its promises to the people, especially projects which had been scheduled to occur over the next five years.
In its party manifesto, the People’s Party listed four economic objectives:
- Upgrade domestic airlines, decrease domestic airfares
- Establish a bank that can offer unsecured loans at 1% interest
- Best roads and bridges in the Pacific to enable connectivity of all people
- Upgrade all wharfs and airports to international standards, air and sea transport best practice in the Pacific
What has happened to the controversial multi-million roading project? This was promoted as a policy which said the first part of the road construction would be for 2020-2022 and the rest would be in 2022-2023. Is the Prime Minister no longer interested in these projects?
What will happen if a new government takes over in November? Will they continue with the roading project or not? If the PTOA forms the government they are likely to dump the project since they have criticised it so heavily.
What will happen to the multi-million pa’anga loans guaranteed by the government at the Tonga Development Bank to allow the companies owned by Cabinet Ministers’ friends and close family members who were offered the roading and quarry contracts to borrow money to buy heavy machinery and equipment from New Zealand last year?
Or does it show that the PAK doesn’t function without the presence of its first vice president, convicted criminal ‘Etuate Lavulavu, who was the only person really dedicated to the party? Lavulavu said he engineered the creation of the party.
The People’s Party was officially formed by eight existing People’s MPs, nine Noble MPs, and four non-MPs on September 20. The late former Deputy Prime Minister Sione Vuna Fā’otusia said he resigned because he was not happy with Lavulavu’s huge influence on the the Prime Minister.
There are also rumours that some Ministers and Members of the nobility have not been happy with the Prime Minister over accusations that he has misused his power.
The PAK took pride in being the first party to have a constitution and be officially registered with the government. This was something Prime Minister Tu’i’onetoa always mentioned as a way of mocking the Democrats – the PTOA – for not being professional politicians.
Right now it appears that the government’s supporters must be wondering whether the government or the PAK are being professional. If nobody is using the PAK name, does, it mean the People’s Party will disappear in a puff of smoke and broken promises?