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Divide and rule

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Editor’s Comment by Pesi Fonua 

When Professor Futa Helu withdrew his support from ‘Akilisi Pohiva and Dr Feleti Sevele, and endorsed Clive Edwards as the Number One candidate for Tongatapu in the recent March parliamentary election, he initiated a split in Tonga’s Pro-democracy Movement.

Clive failed to win a People’s seat in the legislature, but Futa during the campaigning convinced a number of Demos that the so-called “Demo” People’s Representatives no longer had the interests of the people in their hearts, but were out for themselves.

The Demos who were disillusioned with the Movement, along with some candidates who lost the election, rallied behind Futa and formed a new People’s Democratic Party. Futa was reported to have said that the party was a platform to reform the democracy movement in Tonga.

But the fragmentation of the Demos did not end with the formation of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

When two “Demo” People’s Representatives, Dr Feleti Sevele and Sione Peauafi Haukinima, were given the option of resigning as PRs so that they could be appointed as Cabinet Ministers, they resigned. Then the King appointed them as new Cabinet Ministers.

Tonga now has two Demo camps, the Tonga Human Rights and Democracy Movement and the People’s Democratic Party, which have begun to be critical of each other.

The one hard move that has been made by the PDP was the legal action begun against the Tonga Electric Power Board (TEPB) and Shoreline, claiming that the leasing by the TEPB of the power generation to Shoreline was illegal, and that power generation should be returned to the TEPB.

Meanwhile, the THRDM is organising a protest march with a petition that they aim to have signed by 20,000 people. In the petition they listed six demands that they will present to the king on May 21. ‘Akilisi has said they must receive a response from the King before they disperse, or else they will camp outside the palace fence.

The two newly appointed Cabinet Ministers helped to organise the protest march and draft the petition.

Then Hon. Dr Feleti Sevele on April 21 was suddenly appointed as Acting Prime Minister. He moved in a meeting of the Demo PRs for the protest march to be deferred from May 7 to May 21, and for the petition to be given to him and the Hon. Peauafi Haukinima to present to the Prime Minister first in Cabinet, before it was presented to the King.

The postponement of the march was accepted by the meeting, much to the annoyance of the Tongatapu No. 2 People’s Representative, ‘Isileli Pulu, who called for the Hon. Dr Feleti Sevele and the Hon. Peauafi Haukinima to back off from interfering in the PRs and the people’s working agenda, and concentrate on their ministerial responsibilities.

‘Isileli has also expressed his suspicion that Feleti was put in the Acting Prime Minister’s post to deal with the march.

With the Demos obviously at each others throats we can’t help but think that the tactic of “Divide and Rule” is working in favour of government, who do not have to deal with the issues raised, because the people are fighting among themselves.


Long and winding path to democracy - Sailosi Finau:
The recent formation of the People’s Democratic Party has received some sort of a whipping by some of the prominent members of the Tongan media. “Prominent” in the Tongan context only, to the extent that one Editor and his paper have labelled the PDP as the party of the failures, and one of its members as a Patele pisinisi, etc. Letters to the Editor (and God knows who the authors of these letters are) have personally attacked Futa, Clive and the lot rather than the principles that they stand for. These are all aimed, as I see them, to discourage any alternatives to the THRDM and are done under the guise of media freedom.

And while there is no better topic to talk about in Tonga other than democratic reform, getting Tongans to embrace the principles of democracy in their everyday lives is a long way away. Democracy will flourish in an environment where there are differences and competition, and compromises are made by respecting each other’s ideals and values. This is exactly what the PDP is all about. It is a group of people who share the common values of democracy but see the means for accomplishing democracy in a different way from how those at the THRDM see it. The media must play its role of enabling the two camps and others that may follow (e.g a Tongan-Chinese party in 30 years) to compete on a level playing field.

The THRDM has for years been the watchdog over the government. But who is watching over the THRDM? Certainly the PDP will be playing this very crucial role. The next parliamentary session will therefore be a very interesting one if the PDP will not dissolve after the bi-election. The PDP must ensure that they are there at the background to give the public their views on major issues debated at the House. So far the PDP has been very quiet and apart from the by-election campaigns, they should make their presence known.

Tonga has just gone through a historic moment when Hon. Sevele was appointed acting PM, bypassing more senior cabinet ministers. At least ‘Isileli Pulu has made his views known. What are the PDP views on this? And has any of the Tongan media interviewed both the THRDM and PDP on this issue?

We will soon get into the 2005-06 parliamentary sessions and with the existence of the PDP camp, one would expect the debates on the budget to be different this year. The practice by the people’s MPs over the years was to endorse the Finance Minister’s budgetary statement and then become picky and contradict themselves on the individual budget items. For instance, they will accept the macro statement that the budget is to safeguard the security of the country among others. After accepting the budgetary statement they will then go for unnecessary debates on why there is a budget item for equipment for the defense force? Why not remove security from the macro priority to start with? The PDP must speak out loudly on how it would do things differently if its candidates were in the house. And by doing so democracy will be alive and well in Tonga.

Let’s welcome all Tongans to the long and winding path to democracy.
‘Ofa atu - Sailosi Finau

Ruling family clipped the Temo's wings - Tama Foa ( Tevita U. Langi):
One of the gifts that I have is, being shallow-minded. Really! I am, as-a-matter-of-factly, proud of it. It is much better than being depressed about it. You see? I don…’t have to dig deep to find my limitation.

Since my Tongan citizenship, as well as that of many expatriates through out the world, was politically aborted by the kingdom…’s Major Programmer (The King), I have come to terms with it and accepted the reality that my involvement will be from the sideline. Therefore, I believe it is fair to scream from the sideline, and point out illegal tactics that are used by the dominant side (Ruling Family) to keep the underdogs (People) down. However, I do not believe in calling for use of violence or popular uprising to level the playing field. With violence, at the end of the day, it will be blood against blood, and nobody wins. As I have proclaimed to be TamaFoa, there are others in the kingdom, who are more Foa than I am, though they have never set foot there. In Foa, I was called the “Tama Kotu.” Therefore, if we employ violence to accomplish our political goal, other Foa folks on both sides will be victims. I told you, I am shallow.

I am a strong supporter of fairness. In contact sports, fair play not only gives the two contenders opportunities to display their skills, but the observers are also afforded the opportunity to enjoy the occasion.

In the political contention inside our kingdom, it is amusing to observe, 1) the political inexperience within one side, and, 2) the vast distance we still have to go.

In the case of the two Democratic Parties (Temo) vs The Ruling Family, it seems the Ruling Family has the upper hand in their first match of the year. Before the election, the Ruling Family announced that two members of the new parliament would be selected as Cabinet Members. If the Temos didn…’t know, someone please wake them up, the election is over. Please let them know that one of their candidates has been selected as a Cabinet Member. Of course, I am being sarcastic. I am beginning to think the Ruling Family has deflated the Temos…’ political machinery…’s tires, and they are having a hard time moving.

Lack of vision

Wars are run at two levels, strategic and tactical. At the strategic level, war planners role-play each scenario and adjust to counter the enemy…’s potential next move. Each enemy…’s potential move is analyzed and a response is planned. Once they are satisfied at the potential or desired outcome, the plan is then transferred to the Field Generals to initiate the tactical phase (contact with the enemy). In the tactical phase of the war, Field Generals are equipped with insights or intelligence of the enemy…’s strength and weakness.

In our kingdom…’s political war, it seems the Temos (in the middle of engaging the enemy) are still trying to figure out their strategy. I…’ve voiced my concern toward the lack of vision as well as forward thinking on the part of the Ruling Family in their governing of the kingdom. It seems, they are not the only ones suffering from this infliction. The Temos…’ first engagement with the Ruling Family exposed their weakness in their Strategic Planning Department. The Ruling family clipped the Temo…’s wings. Instead of soaring like eagles, they are now waddling like ducks.

Mr. Pesi Fonua, editor of the Matangi Tonga, pointed out the Ruling Family…’s strategy, “Divide and Rule” thus showing an appearance of unfair tactics being used. Personally, I think the Temos are to be blamed for their predicament. Their Strategic Planning Department should have seen this coming as well as planning a countermove. The day it was announced that a member of the new Parliament will be selected as Cabinet Members, they should have known one of their members would be selected. As we all know, Cabinet members are usually educated men. There were two university degreed men in the People…’s side that I was aware of, Mr Sevele who earned his degrees by going to the university…’s classroom, and Mr. Lavulavu who earned his at the cemetery…’s bookstore. Therefore, it was academic who would be selected. I…’m proud of being shallow, have I told you that? I don…’t have to dig deep to figure this out. With this round being called, what are the Temos going to do for the next round?

Mob rule?

Politics is like wrestling a pig. After a while, the pig doesn…’t care about being manhandled because of the enjoyment he gets from being with you in the mud.

Mr Inoke Hu’akau identified several interesting points. Had the Temos carefully studied the issues and planned their counter move(s), they would not be counting on a mass protest to make their point. Negotiation is an art. To keep going back to the people for support only shows we are political lightweights walking into the arena of the super-heavyweights. Welcome to “Democracy in Action”. Of course not, this is not any where close to democratic process, however, political maneuvering is part of that process.
By the way, democracy is one of the worst forms of government. We just haven…’t found a better one to date. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the U.S. Declaration of Independence said, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
In a democratic form of government, the majority impose their will on the minority. Is this what we are pushing for? “A good politician under democracy is as unthinkable as an honest thief” one author wrote. Despite all this, democracy is a process by which the people are free to choose the person who will get the blame. Better yet, it gives Commoners the chance to say to the Royal Family, “You are as good as we are.”

Round Two! - Tama Foa (Tevita U. Langi)