Earlier this week we revealed that the High Court in Auckland has ordered Lord Fulivai, the former governor of Vava’u, and his wife to repay New Zealand businessman Chris Barrett $253,370.60.
The court found that the couple had promised Barrett they could provide him with a 99- year lease on land on Pangaimotu in Vava’u as long as he gave them money to pay off people occupying the land.
Barrett said he did not receive any lease and the defendants were therefore in breach of the agreement.
The couple also took loans from Barrett.
An examination of documents surrounding the case show that Lord Fulivai used the King’s name and that of the Prime Minister and Health Minister Saia Piukala in his dealings with Barrett.
In February 2015 Lord Fulivai wrote to Barrett:
“The PM is aware of an existing location for the 2700m runway international airport as I am the key person for this initiative to take off. I have had a meeting with the PM earlier this year and mentioned that this is the gateway of opportunities to the region and Kingdom in general.
“Mr Barrett I have given you my utmost word and handshake that you will indeed receive a 99 year lease for this property and His Majesty’s Cabinet Ministers will agree to this for they will all be informed of your future contributions to Pangaimotu community and to the Vavau region and overall Kingdom.”
In the same e-mail Lord Fulivai wrote: “I was approached by Saia Piukala (Hon. Minister of Health) in March 2012 that since this area was taken care of by his family many generations he was first priority to leasing this area, where Saia was to submit a lease application in 2016 giving both parties enough time to make money and move.”
On December 17 last year Fulivai wrote to Barrett, saying: “…since HM estate is involved, I can only prove the front beach property approved by Cabinet!! I shall also call Mike to sell some of my HD Shares to get u the exact amount for compensating the land in Vava’u, to protect my King, if it comes down to it Brother.”
To which Barrett replied: ”Just work thru it with this guy Ralph. Why would you need to protect King, this lawyer dude knows everyone – guess thats why bank insisted I use him. I just spent last hour with bank manager sorting all my debts, assets , and a massive deal I am trying to get over line etc so I need good news .You told me you paid everyone, you and Helen had me sign some huge lease , so what can go wrong brother as long as you did as you said , you just need to provide receipts dates etc that people were paid and that land is mine.”
Lord Fulivai’s actions are serious. Some would argue that using His Majesty’s name in this way amounted to a breach of trust and that His Majesty should consider stripping him of his title and lands.
The Nobles are known as the hands of the king or the king’s guards. Their utmost role is to protect the king. Lord Fulivai’s actions must lay him open to questions about whether his behaviour has damaged the king’s reputation.
Tonga’s Nobles swear an oath to protect the king and to stay and look after their people in their various villages and estates. But now some of the nobles have left their people in the outer islands and the countryside and relocated to the capital, Nuku’alofa. Lord Fulivai now appears to have solid links with Auckland.
At the same time the nobles are one of the major problems and barriers to all attempts in Tonga to reform the political system. The Nobles do not want change because that would reduce their cultural and political power. They are a minority group, but very powerful because they hold nearly 30 percent of the land. They have their own people living in these lands, but most of those tenants are not allowed to register those lands. This means they have to keep the nobles happy all the time by providing for their needs if not the nobles will kick them out.
Ngāue’aki ‘e Looti Fulivai ‘a e huafa ‘o e Tama Tu’i ‘i he’ene ngaahi fakamatala tohoaki ke kākaa’i ‘a e tangata pisnisi Nu’u Sila ko Chris Barret ke homo ange ‘a e pa’anga Ua Kilu tupu ki he lisi kae ‘osi ange hala ke ma’u e lisi’ ia. Na’e toutou tohi ‘a Fulivai ‘o fakapapau kia Barret kuo pau ‘aupito ‘a e lisi ia ko e ‘eka ‘e 99 ‘i Pangamotu. Fakapapau’i kuo ‘osi tali ‘e he Kapineti ‘o e ‘aho ko ia’ pea kuo loto ko ā ‘a e Minisitā Mo’ui ‘o e ‘aho ko ia’ , Saia Piukala, ke mavahe mei he kelelele ko Hinakauea ‘a ia ne ne lisi’ kae totongi ange ‘a e nima mano Nu’u Sila ki he mavahe ‘a Piukala ko ia’. Mahino ‘i he ngaahi fakamatala kehe kuo ‘omi ki he Kaniva’ mo e ngaahi fetohi’aki kehe ‘a Barrett mo e ongo Fulivai kehe mei he pepa tu’utu’uni ‘o e hopo ‘i Nu’u Sila ni’ ‘a e loloto fau ‘o e ngāue fa’ufa’u mo kākā ne fai ‘e he nōpele ko ‘eni’. ‘Oku ‘ikai ko ha ki’i hia si’i ‘eni kuo fai ‘e he nōpele ko ‘eni ‘o na kaungā fai o hono uaifi’ Heleni. Kuo’ ne uesia kovi ‘a e huafa ‘o e tama tu’i ‘a ia ko e kelekele foki ‘o ‘Ene ‘Afio’ ‘a Pangaimotu. Pea ‘oku’ ne tuku ki lalo ‘a e kapineti’ mo e Fale Alea mo e kau nōpele fakalukufua.