The Democrats’ (PTOA) Core Team disregarded a strong majority survey by Tongatapu 7 voters preferring PTOA candidate Paula Piveni Piukala to run for the electorate in next week’s general election.
The Core Team clashed over Tongatapu 7’s preference before they agreed to nominate independent candidate Sangstar Saulala to be their candidate.
The Core Team’s decision came after its leader Sēmisi Sika attempted to keep all members happy by contacting Saulala.
In a copy of what had been said to be the Core Team’s e-mail exchanges seen by Kaniva News the members were told their nomination for Tongatapu 7 was Piveni after a survey showed he was preferred by the majority of the constituency.
It appeared some Core Team members immediately opposed the survey result. It also appeared that some were still holding a grudge against Piveni after he took side with defected Siaosi Pōhiva and his brother Saia Piukala and formed up the new PTOA party known as PTOA People’s Board or Poate PTOA ‘a e Kakai’ early this year.
Interestingly, the Core Team members still agreed to nominate Siaosi as their candidate for Tongatapu 1 and Saia Piukala as their candidate to run for Vava’u 14.
Piveni, who was already nominated by the People’s PTOA Board as their candidate for Tongatapu 7, was vocal in criticising some of the Core Team members for their part in losing the government in 2019 after the death of the late Prime Minister and PTOA founder ‘Akilisi Pōhiva.
A copy of the e-mails seen by Kaniva News read in Tongan: “Na’a’ ku fokotu’u atu ke tau fai ‘aki pe a Piveni ‘o makatu’unga ko e loto o e kakai (savea). Neongo oku tau lotomamahi kotoa he ngaahi uesia lahi oku ne fakahoko moe paati a Siaosi ki he kau poupou pea nau tukuhifo kitautolu moe poate pea nau faka’ikaii’i mo situ’a mei he tataki ‘a e poate pule ‘a e PTOA. Neongo ai ia, ka ko Piveni a e fili a e kakai mei he toko 3 na’e talamai ‘e he kakai o Tongatapu 7 oku nau falala ki ai”.
The e-mail also revealed Saulala agreed the Core Team could nominate him as their candidate while Saulala would still run as an independent candidate.
In Tongan the e-mail read: “ Ne fetu’utaki mai a Sangster ‘o ma talanoa pea ne tali fiefia ‘a ‘eku fakaafe ke tau ngaue fakataha ma’ae paati PTOA pea ke hoko ko e fakafofonga ma’a Tongatapu 7 ma’ae PTOA neongo ‘e lele tau’ataina pe”.
Saulala and PTOA
Saulala was elected into parliament in 2014 as PTOA MP. However, he later broke away and voted for the then Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakanō rescuing the noble-led government from being defeated in a Vote of No Confidence tabled by the PTOA party.
Critics believed Saulala’s nomination by the Core Team just a week before the election was a dangerous move by the Democrats as it could split the PTOA voters. The split will mean that the two PTOA factions will be fighting for the same vote while the independent candidates could see this as an opportunity for them to gain more votes.
As we reported previously, Tonga will go to the elections next week with the opposition strategically weakened by a split in the PTOA Party.
The PTOA – the Democrats who were led to two election victories by the late ‘Akilisi Pōhiva – have split into two groups.
It appears the two PTOA factions were trying to sort out their differences recently but what has actually been seen by the public now was that the solution they have come up with could cause them more troubles than good in next week’s elections.