From the House, by Pesi Fonua
In response to a Public Notice issued by the Electoral Boundaries Commission on May 6, stating that they have been offended by my report From the House, headlined Election deadline looms as House rejects changes to constituencies, published in the Matangi Tonga Online on Friday, April 25, 2014 - 20:00, I would like to reply that we stand by our story.
I reported that the Electoral Boundaries Commission 2010-14 Annual Report was rejected by the House. However, to the contrary, the EBC claims in a letter written by Rosamond Bing, EBC secretary, that their report was approved by the House.
Our article, was in fact a report of the Parliamentary proceedings of March 31 as it was broadcasted live and recorded in the Tonga Legislative Assembly Minute No. 4.
In the Public Notice referring to "the offending editorial”, the chairman Lord Tupou said on April 30 that, “the commission has today received formal notification from the Legislative Assembly that confirms approval by the Legislative Assembly of the Annual Report and its veto of the Commission's Report on the Proposed Electoral Boundaries.”
This raises another question of when did the House reconvene to pass the report after the House officially closed its 2013 session on April 3, 2014?
The EBC has stated that their final report on Electoral Boundaries would be presented to the King, the Cabinet and to the Speaker in mid-May.
So the issue that I raised in my article was that the House should approve the Electoral Boundaries six months before the Parliamentary Election in November, but since the Tongan Parliament will not be in session until June, my article asked would the final report be in time for the election in November?
The one error that I made was that we referred to the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC) as the ‘Royal Constituency Boundaries Commission’, overlooking the fact that the name was changed to ‘Electoral Boundaries Commission’ following the enactment of the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act 2010.
I apologized to the Commission for that, and made the correction immediately in an update on 28 April 2014, 04:40pm. The article was not withheld from the public, as claimed by Lord Tupou. It is our normal practice to archive our news articles after three days.
But with the rest of our article we are standing by our story.
Our article was a report of parliament's debate according to the Tonga Legislative Assembly Minute No. 4 of 31 March 2014.
I reported that the major issues raised during the debate in the House included the fact that parliament had never passed an Annual Report of the Commission since 2010. The reason why the EBC annual reports had been rejected, the MPs concluded, was because the Commission had never presented a financial report. It was also revealed that they had neither a budget, a bank account nor a cheque book.
The EBC's decision to amend the boundaries of Constituencies No. 15 and No. 16, (moving the village of 'Utui in Vava'u, from 15 to 16) also became an issue. MPs queried why they picked only these two constituencies, while there was a marked increase in the number of voters in constituencies in Tongatapu and also in Vava'u.
However, when it came to voting in the Whole House Committee, the Chairman announced that there were three inter-related issues that they had to vote on:
- one was the 2010-14 Annual Report of the EBC;
- secondly, there was a petition from the village of 'Utui in Vava'u protesting that they did not want to be moved from Constituent No. 15 to No.16. The Screening Committee suggested for the House not to vote on the petition but to present it to the Commission with some of the opinions expressed in the House for their consideration;
- thirdly, there was also a suggestion by the Prime Minister for the boundaries to remain as they are.
The Chairman of the Whole House Committee Sunia Fili then called for votes on whether they should vote on each issue separately or to vote on all three together.
Three members voted for the committee to vote on each issue separately; they were Semisi Tapueluelu, the Minister of Police Hon. Siosifa Tu‘utafaiva and the Minister of Justice, Hon. Clive Edwards.
Those who were in favour of voting for the three issues all together were 'Akilisi Pohiva, Semisi Sika, Sitiveni Halapua, 'Isileli Pulu, Sione Taione and Moale Finau. They won 6-3.
The Chairman then called for votes to pass the three issues:
- Annual Report of the EBC;
- the suggestion from the Screening Committee for the petition from 'Utui to be handed over to the commission for their decision;
- for the Electoral Boundaries to remain unchanged.
For it were 'Akilisi, Semisi, Sitiveni, 'Isileli, Sione, Mo'ale and Lord Tu'ilakepa.
Against were Semisi Tapueluelu; Minister of Justice Hon Clive Edwards, Lord Nuku, Lord Fakafanua, Lord Tu'iha'ateiho; the Prime Minister, Lord Tu'ivakano; the Minister of Commerce, Tourism and Labour, Hon. Dr Viliami Latu, the Minister of Justice, Hon Clive Edwards and the Minister of Health, Lord Tu'I'afitu. (The Minister of Justice was mistakenly counted twice, and the outcome was 9-7, but it should have been only 8-7).
‘Akilisi and Mo‘ale queried the Chairman if the out-come was really “that the Annual Report was rejected.”
"Yes," said the Chairman.
Mo'ale Finau – "Rejected?".
Chairman – "Yes".
Mo‘ale Finau – "Thank you."
In legislature, the Speaker, Lord Fakafanua called for a vote on the Annual Report of the EBC, the report from the Screening Committee and the petition.
Lord Tu‘ilakepa, reminded the Speaker that the Annual Report was rejected by the Whole House Committee.
The Speaker accepted the view of Lord Tu'ilakepa and called for the House to close until 10:00 am the following morning.
The verbatim report of the voting process in the Whole House Committee and in Legislature was in Tongan and our report covered that accurately. The 2010-14 Annual Report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission was rejected by the Tongan Parliament on 31 March 2014 according to the voting procedure recorded in the Minute no. 4, as follows:
“ 'I he Komiti Kakato (The Whole House Committee)
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: Ne ‘i ai ‘a e fokotu‘u fakamuimui mai ke pāloti kehekehe pea ‘i ai e poupou. Pea ko e fokotu‘u ‘uluaki ke pāloti‘i fakataha pea ‘ave‘aki pea mo e fokotu‘u ‘oku ‘omai pea mei he Kōmiti Sivi fakataha pea mo e faka‘amu ‘a e Fale Alea ‘o Tonga ke tu‘uma‘u ke nau fai ha ngāue ki ai. ‘A ia ko e monomono ia ‘oku fai ki he Palēmia ki he fokotu‘u ‘uluaki. Ka ko e fokotu‘u ua na‘e ‘omai ke pāloti kehekehe pea pāloti ai ke mate e taha. Ko ia ke tau pāloti‘i ia he taimi ni. Ko ia ‘oku poupou ke tau pāloti kehekehe kātaki ‘o hiki ho nima.
Kalake Tēpile: Sea ‘oku loto ki ai ‘a Sēmisi Tapueluelu…
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: Hoko atu hoko atu e lau kātaki…
Kalake Tēpile: ‘Eiki Minisitā Polisi, ‘Eiki Minisitā Lao. Sea loto ki ai e toko tolu.
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: Ko ia ‘oku ‘ikai ke loto ke pāloti‘i kehekehe, kātaki ‘o hiki ki ‘olunga ho nima.
Kalake Tēpile: Sea ‘oku loto ki ai ‘a Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pōhiva, Sēmisi Sika, Sitīveni Halapua, ‘Isileli Pulu, Sione Havea Taione, Mo‘ale Fīnau. Loto ki ai ‘a e toko ono Sea.
Pāloti‘i Līpooti Komisoni Fili ki he Ngaahi Ngatangata‘anga mo e fokotu‘u mei he Kōmiti Screening
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: Sai ‘oku mālohi ke pāloti‘i fakataha. Tau pāloti ai pē, ko ia ‘oku loto ke tali e līpooti pea tali‘aki pea mo e fokotu‘u ‘oku ‘omai mei he Kōmiti Screening pea mo e faka‘amu ‘a e Fale Aleá ke ‘ave ki ai, faka‘amu ‘a e Fale Alea ke tu‘uma‘u ‘o fakatatau pea mo e angamaheni ‘oku tau anga ki ai. Ko ia ‘oku loto ki ai kātaki hiki ho nima.
Kalake Tēpile: Sea ‘oku loto ki ai ‘a Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pōhiva, Sēmisi Sika, Sitīveni Halapua, ‘Isileli Pulu, Sione Havea Taione, Mo‘ale Fīnau. Loto ki ai e toko ono Sea pea mo fitu ki he Tu‘ilakepa.
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: Mālō Hou‘eiki, tau tali e fokotu‘u ‘ave fakataha pea mo e faka‘amu ‘a e Fale Alea mo e fokotu‘u ‘a e Screening Committee ke nau fai mu‘a ha ngāue ki ai. Kātaki, ko ia ‘oku ‘ikai ke loto ki ai kātaki ‘o hiki ho nima.
Kalake Tēpile: ‘Ikai ke loto ki ai ‘a Sēmisi Tapueluelu, ‘Eiki Minisitā Lao, ‘Eiki Nōpele Nuku, ‘Eiki Nōpele Fakafanua, ‘Eiki Nōpele Tu‘iha‘ateiho, ‘Eiki Palēmia mo ‘Eiki Minisitā Fefakatau‘aki, ‘Eiki Minisitā Lao. ‘Ikai ke loto ki ai ‘a e toko valu, toko hiva ki he ‘Eiki Minisitā Mo‘ui.
‘Akilisi Pōhiva: Sea…
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: ‘Oku ‘ikai ke tali, ‘ikai ke tali e līpooti fakataha pea mo e fokotu‘u ko ena ‘o e Screening Committee ke ‘ave ki he…
Mo‘ale Fīnau: Sea, Sea ‘a ia ko hono mo‘oni ‘oku ‘ikai ke tali e līpooti ia ‘a e Komisoni…
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: Ko ia.
Mo‘ale Fīnau: Fakata‘e‘aonga‘i ia.
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: Ko ia.
Mo‘ale Fīnau: Mālō.
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: ‘Ikai ke tali e līpooti pea ‘ikai ke tali mo e fokotu‘u ko ē ke ‘ave ‘aki ‘a e fokotu‘u fakakaukau. Hou‘eiki ko e tu‘u ia ‘a e tu‘utu‘uni…
‘Isileli Pulu: Na‘a tau pāloti tautolu ia ‘i he ‘ave fakataha pe ko e ‘ave kehekehe? ‘O kapau ‘oku mālohi ē, ‘oku tonu ke tau hanga ‘e tautolu ‘o fakakaukau‘i. Sea ‘oku ki‘i ‘ata faikehe ‘etau me‘a he na‘a tau poupou ki he fo‘i fakakaukau ‘oku ‘ikai ko ha ‘ave me‘a ia ke tu‘utu‘uni atu kitautolu he ‘oku ‘osi mahino pe ia ko e fatongia ia ‘o nautolu. Ka ‘oku tau ‘oatu ‘a e tohi tangi ‘o ‘oatu ka tautolu ‘oku tau ‘osi tali ‘e tautolu ‘i Fale Alea ni ‘a e tohi tangi ke ‘ave ka nautolu he ‘oku ‘ikai ke ‘i ai ha‘atau mafai…
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: Mālō ‘aupito
‘Isileli Pulu: Ke tokoni ka nautolu.
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: Fakafofonga, fakatatau ki he‘etau tu‘utu‘uni ‘oku ‘ikai ke tali ‘e he Fale ‘a e līpooti ko eni ‘a e komisoni fakataha pea mo e fokotu‘u fakakaukau pea mei he, Hou‘eiki kole atu ke tau hoko atu mu‘a ‘etau ngāue he ‘oku lahi ‘o fakatatau ki he‘etau tu‘utu‘uni ko e tu‘utu‘uni ia.
Sione Taione: Sea tapu mo e Feitu‘una ‘Eiki Sea kau ki‘i, ko e faka‘amu pe ia ke fakama‘ala‘ala angē ko e taimi ia ke tau tali e līpooti ko eni he ‘oku ‘omai foki ‘enau ngaahi fokotu‘u ‘a nautolu ke ‘ave ‘a ‘Utui…
Sea Kōmiti Kakato: Fakafofonga, kātaki ‘o me‘a ki lalo, ‘oku ‘osi ‘alu atu ‘eku tu‘utu‘uni, ‘ikai ke tali, mahino ki he komisoni ‘oku ‘i ai hono anga, ‘oku ‘i ai e fakakaukau ‘a e Fale Alea.
Sione Taione: Mālō Sea.
'I he Fale Alea (In Legislature)
‘Eiki Sea : Mālō Hou‘eiki, tau hoko atu ai pē ki he Līpooti Fokotu‘u ‘a e Komisoni ki he ngaahi Ngatangata‘anga e Vāhenga fili, fakataha pea mo e Līpooti Fika 1 e 2014 e Kōmiti Fili ki he Screening, pea mo e Tohi Tangi Fika 2 ‘o e 2014.
Lord Tu‘ilakepa : Sea, tapu pē pea mo e Feitu‘una, ‘Eiki Sea.
‘Eiki Sea : Me‘a mai.
Lord Tu‘ilakepa : ‘Oku ‘ikai ke tali ia ‘e he Kōmiti Kakató ‘a e līpooti ko ia, ‘Eiki Sea, ‘a e Kōmiti Fili. Ko e laó pē, ‘Eiki Sea. Ko e anga pē ia e ma‘u ‘a e motu‘á ni, ka ‘oku ‘i he Feitu‘u na pē ia. Mahalo kuo ‘osi pekia pē ia ‘i he Kōmiti Kakato, ‘Eiki Sea. Mālō.
‘Eiki Sea : Kapau ‘oku ‘ikai ke to e ‘i ai ha fokotu‘u mei ha taha, pea ‘oku ou tali pē e fokotu‘u mei he Fakafofonga e Hou‘eiki Nōpele ‘o Vava‘u. Mālō Hou‘eiki. Mou me‘a hake ke tau kelesi. Toloi e Falé ki he 10.00 ‘apongipongi.
Matangi Tonga Online and Pesi Fonua stand by our report From the House, headlined Election deadline looms as House rejects changes to constituencies, published in the Matangi Tonga Online on Friday, April 25, 2014.