COMMENTARY: Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa has attracted exceptional attention this election because of what has been seen as his overtly biased policies towards constituencies who did not vote for his party or support his Cabinet.
This could make him the kingdom’s first Prime Minister to take such a prejudicial stance since Tonga’s political reforms of 2010.
He has shown in the two years of his tenure a huge lack of good leadership and an apparent misuse of the country’s budget by only favouring his Cabinet Ministers’ constituencies with much needed infrastructure projects.
If Hon. Tu’i’onetoa is returned to Parliament this election it will not be because of his use of the government’s multimillion projects to woo voters of his constituency, but the wrong decision the PTOA party made to promote two candidates in Tongatapu 10.
The two PTOA factions’ latest action was terribly dangerous and showed how profoundly their leaders lack any real leadership qualities.
They showed recently they could reach a compromise in some constituencies like Tongatapu 8, where the PTOA People’s Board candidate withdrew to support the Core Team candidate Sēmisi Fakahau and Siaosi Pōhiva agreed to appear on the Core Team’s candidate list.
Why did they not make such a compromise in other constituencies, including Tongatapu 4, 5, 7 and 10?
Lapaha links to Mu’a (Tongatapu 9)
Tongatapu 10 has been one of the PTOA’s strongholds for more than 30 years since the democratic movement was introduced in Tonga in 1980s. A number of factors helped these people maintain their strong belief in the democrats. There were people in the Mu’a electorate next to Lapaha in Tongatapu 10 who were shot on Malinoa island after they were accused of being involved in the failed attempt to assassinate the then Prime Minister Shirley Baker.
The Mu’a electorate was where the Mu’a Parliament was established after their leader of the Tu’i Tonga line was defeated and dethroned by King Taufa’āhau 1 and his warriors.
Although there was a reconciliation after the war and the dethroning of the Tu’i Tonga (Tonga King) the Mu’a chiefs were still furious.
It continued in the Mu’a parliament which was occupied by the Tu’i Tonga chiefs.
In the 1990s some residents of Tongatapu 10 were vocal in support of the Democratic Movement, including a man by the name Vaha’akolo Fonofehi from Lapaha who was detained together with the Taimi ‘o Tonga newspaper editor because of their criticism against the then Minister of Police Clive Edwards for opposing the democrats.
The Tongatapu 10 people showed their support for the democratic movements as part of the work their own Parliament initiated after the Kanokupolu line took over.
Tu’i’onetoa and the nobility
Last week the Prime Minister went on air on his official Facebook livestream with Radio FM 87.5 and highly recommended the noble MPs and the need for all MPs to stand together with the nobility.
His preaching shows he has completely rejected the continued work made since 2010 to improve Tonga’s democratisation process. His rejection was a U-turn, a contradiction of what he told Tongatapu 10 voters in 2017, when he asked the voters to elect him because he supported the PTOA and their democritisation process. Now he keeps telling the public that the PTOA has a plot to take away the king’s power by force, something the PTOA has denied vehemently.
This election gives Tongatapu 10 another chance to test their good judgement and whether they will change it because of the new wharf, weaving houses, new road sealings and distributions of water tanks or whether they will dump him and elect one of the two PTOA candidates with their policies which support the principles of democracy.