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'Akilisi reveals his quest to be Minister of Education

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

From the House by Pesi Fonua

A revelation by 'Akilisi Pohiva yesterday afternoon that he had told the Prime Minister to dismiss his two appointed ministers, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Justice, and that 'Akilisi wanted to be the Minister of Education, presented a new dimension to the deliberation in the House over a Motion for a Vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister signed by 10 People's Representatives.

'Akilisi made the relevation in an annex to his written reply to the Prime Minister, presented to the House.

He stated that he had told the Prime Minister to dismiss Clive Edwards, the Minister of Justice, and Dr 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki, the Minister of Education. 'Akilisi wanted to be the Minister of Education and he stated that Dr Sitiveni Halapua should have been a Cabinet minister, instead of Clive Edwards.

The Constitution allows the Prime Minister of the reformed government to appoint four cabinet ministers from outside of the House along with Ministers chosen from elected members, to form a Cabinet that is less than half of the total number of the 26 elected members, in order to form a minority government. The Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano, so far, has brought in only two appointed ministers to his Cabinet.

'Akilisi said that following the election of Lord Tu'ivakano as Prime Minister in December 2010, he hosted a dinner for the Prime Minister when he stressed upon him the importance for them to work together in selecting his cabinet, and because most of the elected People's Representatives were from Tongatapu that some of them should be in the Cabinet.

This took place after 'Akilisi had lost the vote for Prime Minister in the House.

'Akilisi said that when he was asked by the Prime Minister if he would become a Cabinet minister what could he do, he had replied “Education, because I was a former teacher for 19 years.”

However, the Prime Minister had other ideas and he nominated 'Akilisi as the Minister of Health in January 2011.


The Prime Minister required all his Cabinet ministers to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that included a clause that they would not vote in favour of any motion for a vote of no confidence.

'Akilisi stated that his two main reasons for resigningas Minister of Health were because he did not want to sign an MOU that pledged him not to vote for a motion for a vote of no confidence, and also because the Prime Minister had not dismissed his two appointed ministers.

Verbal resignation

In the House yesterday the Prime Minister said that when 'Akilisi verbally resigned, 'Akilisi told him that he could not do the job.

The other former Cabinet Minister who resigned later and gave his support to the current Motion for a Vote of No Confidence was 'Isileli Pulu, who told the House that the MOU scared him, though he signed it, and did not resign from Cabinet until June 25 this year.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Samiu Vaipulu, raised the fact that the supporters of the Motion, as members of their own party, had also signed their own MOU

People's Representative Semisi Tapueluelu said that their MOU differed from that of the Cabinet because they were not government.

Lord Tu'ivakano said that he had asked 'Akilisi for a letter of resignation, because he had written him an official letter inviting him to be a Cabinet minister, but to this day there had been no letter of resignation from 'Akilisi Pohiva.

'Akilisi's desire to be a Minister of Education, and his insistence for the Prime Minister to dismiss his two appointed ministers, Clive Edwards and 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki, appeared to have some bearing on the motion, even though he admitted that under the constitution the Prime Minister could appoint up to four Cabinet Ministers from outside the House.

He appeared to include his desire for the dismissal of the two Cabinet ministers in the Motion for a Vote of No Confidence in the Prime Minister because the Prime Minister had not done what 'Akilisi told him to do.

Minister of Education

For the first time during the debate on the motion, the only woman Member of Parliament, Dr 'Ana Taufe'ulungaki, told the House that when she had accepted the invitation by the Prime Minister to become a Minister of Education, she had left a job where she was earning $177,000 a year. 'Ana was in tears when she said, “but if you want me out I am happy to move out.”

The previous day, Tuesday August 21, the House again ended the day in a state of confusion. When the Speaker closed the sitting he said that he would tell them the following day what they should do next.

On Monday the House closed abruptly and the Speaker called for a special meeting with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, 'Akilisi Pohiva and Siosifa Tu'utafaiva.

The outcome of that meeting was that the House proceeded yesterday with the reading of reply by the supporters of the motion on the conditions that the Deputy Prime Minister and 'Akilisi Pohiva were to withdraw their motions, and for clauses 6, 7 and 10 of the reply not to be read.

The House reconvenes today August 22.

The new revelations came amid different opposing interpretations of the constitution and the law over the legality of the motion and whether or not the House actually has a procedure to deal with a motion for a vote of no confidence.