The Prime Minister of Tonga explained to us all the meaning of “One rule for the rich and one rule for the poor” when he was interviewed by Katalina Tohi regarding the Auditor General’s Final Report re: Corruption allegation against the Minister of Tourism.
“The report also found that despite the fact the Minister violated the laws, appropriate disciplinary action be taken based on the following key findings:
1. The Minister did not deposit the funds in a secretive or disguised manner but he informed the Director of Tourism and Deputy Director of Marketing before he deposited the funds.
2. The actions taken by the Minister was in order to help the Department undertake its functions as I mentioned earlier.
3. There was no fraudulent aim behind these actions and all funds were accounted for.
4. The shortfall in the Ministers actions was that it violated the law.
“These funds belong to the nation and must be protected according to our laws. The key question is: was any money missing or fraud committed? It is clearly stated in the report that this did not happen. We need to look at the law of the land and we have to admit that we break certain laws many times such as speeding, driving with broken head lights or illegal parking and appropriate punishment is meted out by the authorities. This is similar to the actions of the Minister of Tourism. It has occurred but should attract the appropriate disciplinary actions based on the level of crime committed.
“The Auditor General recommended that the following actions be considered:
1. Stop the use of Petty Cash
2. If the current process of dispensing funds from Treasury is taking too long then Cabinet should assess it further within the confines of the law to use impress accounting. This will enable departments to pay and dispense of funds directly rather than through a centralised process in Treasury.
3. Impose disciplinary action on the Minister of Tourism for breaking the law.
4. Ask the Minister of Tourism to resign because he has broken the law. The argument that the Minister did not understand the law is not a defence for breaking the law.”
The PM’s final decision of course does not come as a surprise to any of us because we have come to realise that the Minister of Tourism is one of his henchmen. We knew that favouritism would play a part in the final deliberation and so it has. Despite recommendation number 4 shown above given by the Auditor General, the PM believes that the Minister of Tourism’s violation of the law is such a minor thing, just like someone driving with broken head lights or illegal parking!
But this man is a Minister of the Crown and he is supposed to respect and uphold the law of the land. Working for three months without pay is nothing comparing to the damage caused to this PM and his Government. Financial Aid donors to Tonga are probably wondering to themselves whether their cheques were put into Government Bank accounts or Ministers of the Crown’s private bank accounts. Well, wonder no more. The cheques were put in private bank accounts, just for petty cash.
Edgar Cocker was right to bring the problem of the Tourism Department to the notice of the PM. In doing so, the Government is now forced to do something about it. Not only that but we also come to learn something else. The PM is a one man show. He makes the decision then informs the Cabinet and the King. Recently former heads of Government Departments who did not agree with him were asked to resign from their posts and as for Parliamentarians, they are practically kept at arms length. My question is this - are we witnessing the dawn of dictatorship in Tonga?
senolita_swan_3 [at] msn [dot] com