“Is there no one else who can do the job?” Democrats ask why Lord Sevele was recommended for top job with Reserve Bank

    PTOA supporters have asked why former Prime Minister Lord Sevele ‘O Vailahi has been  recommended to become chair of the National Reserve Bank’s Board of Directors.

    Lord Sevele ‘O Vailahi (L), Minister of Finance Tatafu Moeaki

    A letter of recommendation signed by Minister of Finance Tatafu Moeaki has been shared on social media.

    Hon. Moeaki said the appointment had been approved by Cabinet.

    He said Lord Sevele would “manage any perceived conflict of interest on his part and any other members of the board.”

    Kaniva News has asked Hon. Moeaki for comment.

    We asked him to tell us about the basis for the Cabinet’s  recommendation of  Lord Sevele for the post.

    We also asked Moeaki whether there was a conflict of interest over his recommendation of Sevele, given that the former Prime Minister was a voter in his constituency and they went to the same church.

    PTOA Party political social media activist Sharon Sēkona said she was baffled by the letter and asked if there was no one else in Tonga who would be a better fit for the post rather than Sevele.

    “‘Ikai pe toe ai ha taha ia ‘i Tonga e qualified ki he position eee hoiiii”, she wrote in Tongan.

    Controversial

    PTOA Party supporters said Lord Sevele had a questionable background.

    He has been accused of being involved in the illegal transfer of million of dollars from a Chinese grant to Princess Pilolevu Tuita and Tongasat

    The Supreme Court has declared the transfer as illegal.

    He was sacked as CEO of the organising committee for the 2019 Pacific Games that were going to be held in Tonga.

    In 2017 the then Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva withdrew the kingdom from hosting the  Games. He said he was unhappy with the financial budget organised by the organising committee chaired by Lord Sevele. 

    Lord Sevele was Prime Minister when the MV Ashika sank in 2009, killing 74 people.

    Some people were charged and jailed after the tragedy, including the captain of the vessel Makahokovalu Tuputupu, Acting Director of Marine and Ports Viliami Tu’ipulotu and John Jonesse the Managing Director  of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia Ltd, which owned the vessel.

    However, critics said the prosecution should have brought to justice everybody involved, including Lord Sevele, who was accused of being instrumental in bringing the doomed vessel to Tonga.

    Chinese loan

    Sevele was chair of the Nuku’alofa Development Corporation which administered and spent a TOP$118 million loan from China to reconstruct central Nuku’alofa after it was destroyed in riots on 16 November 2006.

    He was accused of making unconstitutional decisions about the loan. Loans of more than TOP$15 million must be approved by a resolution of Parliament.

    In 2013 a Parliamentary committee chaired by the late ‘Akilisi Pōhiva found that  Sevele wanted to spend some of the reconstruction money on the City Assets Building (Molisi Tonga Ltd), which he owned.

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