Minister: No personal link with ex-PM’s appointment; government needs experienced people to deal with financial crisis

    Minister of Finance Tatafu Moeaki said today the appointment of Lord Sevele as a director of the National Reserve Bank of Tonga had nothing to do with his personal relationship with the former Prime Minister.

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

    He said the government needed experienced people to help deal with the kingdom’s financial crisis.

    As Kaniva News reported yesterday news of the appointment leaked when a letter to the Reserve Banks’s board of directors recommending the appointment was posted online.

    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.”

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

    We also asked Hon. 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.

    The Minister said the National Reserve Bank was not a political body.

    It was a legally independent body separate from the government.

    He said Tonga was facing enormous financial problems and the government had appointed new directors to deal with the problems.

    “This is an administrative issue that should have not been leaked to the public, but the facts were in that letter of mine to the National Reserve Bank of Tonga on April 14,” he said.

    The task of the directors was to help the government’s social economic recovery process.

    The Reserve Bank had to deal with the country’s financial matters, including inflation, the external account, the exchange rate, regulation of the financial institutions stability, the money supply and interest rates. 

    He said a comparison of the costs of living in New Zealand to Tonga, the remittance fees to Tonga and the cost of loans made it clear why the appointment of experienced people as directors was necessary.

    In response to questions about his personal relationship with the 78-year-old Lord Sevele, the Minister said: “Your other questions were not related to the appointment of the director.

    This had nothing to do with the town or church that I came from. I have no comment for your other concerns.”

    Kaniva’s article has triggered further attacks on the government from the public.

    Many people  have said the issue put the Hu’akavameiliku government in a position like that of the former  Prime Minister Tu‘i‘onetoa who was criticised for his relationship with convicted fraudsters Etuate and Akosita Lavulavu.

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