It is now almost two months after those dreadful events of 16/11 that resulted in most (if not all) of us Tongans being ashamed to regard ourselves as Tongans anymore. I join Dr. Taufe…ulungaki and the many voices both from Tonga and abroad who put the blame for the events of that fateful day on the pro-democracy movement and their agenda which has long since hijacked all kind of dialogues about the political future of our country. The events of 16/11 seem to me to be the last straw in proving that the pro-democracy movement and their agenda is most likely to be damaging to the future of our country. I am neither a royalist nor a pro-government in my orientation. My position is simply a fulfillment of my Christian commitment to call upon all people towards repentance. I believe that the only real change that could happen in any department is the transformation of the hearts and minds of those involved through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. As long as we think that a change in the system will give us a better chance in life, we have fooled ourselves and are blind to the more serious problem that we must first deal with, namely, the evil generated in our own hearts and mind that defiles all our relations. Should a Christian speak out on political issues? Indeed, the political aspect of our lives is simply a small but important part of the whole person upon which the Lord Jesus Christ of the biblical gospel lays claim. In other words, if Jesus is to be the Lord of lords and King of kings, He must even be the Lord over our politicians and our most cherished political agendas.
With that aside, I wish to assert that notwithstanding the effort of Mr. Lopeti Senituli to release the pro-democracy movement of bearing responsibility for 16/11 there appears to be much going for them as at least being the force behind the perpetrators of the shameful events of that day.
Firstly, the fact that the pro-democracy movement is now apparently divided into two (democratic) extremes with the PM and Mr. Senituli on the one hand and Mr. Pohiva and those PRs who led the mob on the 16/11 indicates a certain confusion in the particular democratic system they desire for the Tongan people. A …house… divided can never stand the test of time. More importantly, a house divided can never bring order and harmony to the society because a divided house will always be at war with itself until it utterly and totally destroys the …house…. I agree with one of your editorial that 16/11 is the consequence of this division within the pro-democracy camp. The fact that they are divided on their particular version of democracy is sufficient reason for the general public to seriously doubt that they can successfully run our country at any time. I suggest that if they really want to make a claim for the leadership of our country (or any country for that matter), they must re-unite and make sure they have one version of it and avoid playing the power struggle game at the expense of the people…s taxation contribution. I have a sneaking suspicion that if the attempted coup of 16/11were successful, Mr. Pohiva would probably take over the Prime Minster…s portfolio.
Secondly, the kind of political model that Mr. Pohiva and his associates proposed to Parliament with 21 members elected by the people together with 9 nobles representatives is fundamentally flawed as a proposal for a sound political system. What is missing from their proposal (and this is probably true also of the government…s proposal as well) is an opposition party to be responsible for putting the proposed government…s policies and course of actions in the critical spotlight. If the people elect all the PRs and from there a government is set up to run the country, then the question of accountability is not dealt with sufficiently. Of course, the pro-democracy party would say that the government will only be accountable to the people. But doesn…t 16/11 imply that the people can easily be blinded by the PRs with whatever agenda they might want to push? A political system with no opposition party is the best recipe towards dictatorship entering on the back door. Hence again, we must be allowed to seriously doubt the pro-democracy and their agenda … this includes both the PM and his supporters and Mr. Pohiva and his people. If we truly need democracy, it has to be a democracy that fits not only our people but also principles of sound governance.
Thirdly, I seriously question the ability of the PM to lead our country due to the fact that under threat he willingly submitted to the demands of Mr. Pohiva and his associates during in the events that occurred in the PM…s cabinet room on the 16/11. I am basing my suggestion on Mr. Senituli…s eyewitness account here. A good leader should insist on legal principles upon which he must be willing to lay down his life for the sake of maintaining the integrity of his leadership qualities. With all due respect to the PM, I take it that he was weak on the crucial point when he was meant to be strong. He should never have given in to the demands of Mr. Pohiva that their proposal for political reform be endorsed or else. Only a wimp can give in to such a preposterous attempt. Whatever the case, the PM should stand by the Law of the Land (until proper amendments are in place given that he is unhappy with it). He is under no obligation to give in to anyone…s demand no matter how life-threatening the situation might be, even more specifically in this case when it was a threat to change the political system of our country. His decision to give in to the demands of Mr. Pohiva and the mob seems to me to be unconstitutional and so I would call on him to give up his position to a person who would stand on his principles and abide by the Law of the Land even unto death.
Fouthly, for Mr. Pohiva to openly disregard the rule of Law in Tonga as a …fraud…, according to Mr. Senituli…s report of that pressurized meeting in the PM…s office during the events of 16/11, is sufficient evidence to prevent us from entrusting to him any form of power in any aspect of our country…s governing body. Mr. Pohiva…s disrespect for the Law of the Land is not new of course for it is a position that he has maintained from time to time throughout his political career. The foundation of peace and harmony in a society is the imposition of the rule of Law. In fact, it is the divine responsibility of any form of government to uphold the Law … to punish the lawbreakers and to uphold justice in society (Romans 13). For Mr. Pohiva to treat the Law of our country with contempt, I suppose it would not be too hard for him to endorse the kind of lawlessness we have witnessed on the events of the 16/11. It seems to me that if anyone regards the Law of the Land with due contempt and disdain, he himself has already wittingly or unwittingly put himself in the place of the Law. Rather than being a law-abiding he has become a law-less citizen. Dictatorship almost always resulted when human agents substituted themselves for the rule of the Law in any form of political system.
Fifthly, a leader especially in a democratic system should take responsibilities for his/her actions no matter how vile they might have been. Here in NSW, for instance, we have witnessed a state minister being asked to resign for admitting to misleading the Parliament. The identification of the ringleaders responsible for inciting the mob on 16/11 will have to await the conclusion of the police investigation. However, the radio announcements of the respective PRs who walked amongst the mob in downtown Nuku…alofa on the 16/11, (their so called …victory… speech) seem to me to be sufficient evidence to lay the charge upon them. Even Mr. Senituli…s report of the exchange (if that is the right word) between Mr. Pohiva and the PM in the cabinet room on the 16/11 point unmistakably to Mr. Pohiva as inciting the rioters of 16/11. As expected of any criminal, none of the so called …victors… owns up to their actions after the events. Where is the boldness that Mr. Pohiva and his associates expressed on days leading up to the 16/11 and even on the radio broadcast that very night? I am reminded of Pontius Pilate who having washed his hands of responsibility in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ offered his endorsement for his crucifixion afterward. I wish to call on those PRs who were directly involved either by inciting or walking in the midst of the mobs during the events of 16/11, for the sake of maintaining their integrity, to step out and admit to their involvement in instigating all that happened on 16/11. The reform to the political system of any country must begin with responsible citizens living responsibly.
Rev. Dr. Ma…afu Palu
m_palu [at] bigpond [dot] com