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Nobody did enough home work to counter Shoreline problem

Auckland, New Zealand

Re: Protest marchers need more information

Dear Editor

I must thank Sailosi Finau for his letter of 20 May about this issue of Shoreline that has been around in Tonga for so long! Let me join the good questions that you raised Sailosi and I think some of these questions remain answerable for the officials of the TEPB and the Government of Tonga (GoT) including members of Parliament. This is one of the obvious mistakes that the GoT always learns from and that is part of the unfortunate practices that Tonga needs to be awaken and start exploring remedial solutions for.

If we question, how on earth did Shoreline take over power generation and later power distribution from the GoT? Many people agree that “Private Sector” is the power vehicle of economic development and this is inevitable from the slow shifting of GDP from the public sector to the private sector in Tonga and many other countries in the World. “Privatization” and “Corporatization” were part of the public reform that NZ and many other DEVELOPED! COUNTRIES did for public and economic reform, and I think the harmony and “matamata lelei” of the idea itself misled our Politicians to fully support to adopt this foreign policy probably on poor timing at the past. Is this connected to the Shoreline? Of course, I believe this was the driving force that the Politicians had at the last few years.

What went wrong with the TEPB? I still do not think, the Politicians of those days were aware enough with what would happen to the Shoreline to-day. They must have admired the following of the poor government on the step of public and economic reform of “privatization and corporatization”. What went wrong with the TEPB was not an issue in my opinion, the dismantling of the TEPB was intended to stimulate more electrical private businesses and services in Tonga (contributing to private sector) and allow the TEPB to be a regulatory body to oversee the private electrical businesses and services, including Shoreline (streamlining of government tasks).TEPB must come up with regulatory policies to ensure quality of electricity services and appropriate standards to be compliance with, including safety in place (assuming is better for the government to remain in quality assurance only and let the private sector do the job, would this be a good intention?). This seems to me that this was a genuine ignorance of the Politicians and the government.

Who is responsible to these problems? Obviously the government is responsible for these problems “mo e longoa…‚a lahi”, including the Parliament itself for not insisting enough, knowing that power distribution is an essential service for the government to control. The deal between the TEPB on behalf of the government and the Shoreline would have been an immediate solution itself and this was the intention before assuming if the decision makers have had time enough to analyze the deal probably and anticipate the problems that their decision may cause. The government & TEPB should have commissioned a few business consultants (and legal consultants) to analyze this contract arrangement thoroughly to provide information and projected enough the likely happen of this deal in future. Unfortunately, the lack of skills “pea hangee ko e folofoloa ‘oku ‘auha hoku kakai ko e masiva ‘ilo”. Agree or disagree, nobody knows that the power tariff would have increased this fast, and nobody, nobody at the past did enough home works to counter what is happening now. One boy said this is a karate world, “ko e maamani kalate eni”.

What can we do?

1. The contracts between TEPB and Shoreline must be well reviewed comprehensively and again the government can commission a mission to generate clear and precise information on the implications of whatever decisions that all parties may reach;

2. Given that there are strong allegations to the management and operational of Shoreline, the government can commission an independent Auditor to investigate these allegations. What the Shoreline kept saying on media, the fluctuation of oil price causes tariff increases. Get the external auditor to find out the determinant factors for tariff and the actual causes of rapid increases. This is obvious to allow better information for the Shoreline Shareholders and government to base their decisions on. What will happen in reality say if the Shoreline gave up power generation and distribution to the government now? Answers to these will base on the above two missions.

3. If the government fails to accept the above missions, other options from the legal perspective is to launch a complaint to Justice and again, plain information on this option is very vital to double-check its feasibility. Free marching to the King is allowed by the Constitution, given that the Privy Council has the absolute power to commission the above missions not only to find out the implications of any decision on Shoreline but also to find out the truth from the rapid increases of the power tariff and the financial allegations that appeared on the local newspaper;

4. Other option for the Parliament and we all count on our reps that they could draft bills to enhance their power towards public enterprises. Again, a comprehensive mission on this area will definitely need to ensure the effectiveness of Parliamentary involvement on public enterprises. Do they have the capacity to make decision on public enterprises? Again, the TOR of the Parliament may be needed to review.

5. I agree with Sailosi Finau, that people need information on the effectiveness of Shoreline services, TEPB services, tariff rates over time, etc and their weaknesses and what reform and options can be offered. These back up information is important to justify the best option for hand over the power generation and distribution. What is the possibility to recap and improve the contracts between Shoreline and TEPB? Are we prepared, if the Shoreline handover the power services to the people or to the TEPB to-day? What are the social and economic consequences for not well preparing to takeover the power to-day or tomorrow? March organizers should have these in mind and I think the generation of the above data and information is important and everybody has the RIGHT to know but that is not conditional to the march but it is important to predict and anticipate what will happen and what can be done now and future before we make any decision or any move. Not like the TRUST FUND and the SHORELINE, regret at the end and if!.if! if! if! if but it’s too late. What good can we get if we all agree to go back to coconut oil lamps? Would this be an option for us people?

Question: Who is going to pay for the above MISSIONS? Let us see if the TEPB have saved enough as part of their TOR to be answerable not only to the PC but to the whole public as well. If TEPB can’t, then the government can allocate some money from the Treasury. I don’t know if this is something that the members of Parliament (MPS) and the March Organizers can try international grant to fund the above missions if we get permission from the government.



Henry Alexanda Tonga

Mangere, Auckland.

henry_alexanda [at] yahoo [dot] com