TONGA’S new government met for the first time this morning, January 5, at the Cabinet Room Nuku’alofa, where ten Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister attended an historical inaugural meeting. Absent was Lord Ma’afu, the Minister for Lands, Survey, Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, who was ill. The meeting was intended to be brief but went on for more than two hours, from 10am until noon. The Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakano, the last to leave the building said with a smile “Thanks, it is done”, meaning that he has a cabinet. The Cabinet Members will be sworn in next Thursday, January 13, when parliament will meet for the first time for its 2011 Parliamentary Session. The confirmed Cabinet Ministers are: 1. Lord Tu’ivakano - Prime Minister, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Defence, Information and Communication; 2. Hon Samiu Kuita Vaipulu - Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Justice, Transport and Works; 3. Lord Ma’afu - Minister for Lands, Survey, Natural Resources and Environment and Climate Change; 4. Lord Vaea - Minister for Agriculture, Food, Forests and Fisheries; 5. Hon Sunia Manu Fili - Minister for Finance. 6. Hon S. Fe’aomoeata Vakata - Minister for Training, Employment, Youth and Sports; 7. Hon. Dr Viliami Latu - Minister for Police, Prisons and Fire Services; 8. Hon Lisiate ‘Aloveita ‘Akolo - Minister for Labour, Commerce and Industries; 9. Hon. Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva - Minister for Health; 10. Hon. ‘Isileli Pulu - Minister for Tourism; 11. Hon Wiliam Clive Edwards - Minister for Revenue Services and Public Enterprises; 12. Hon. Dr ‘Ana Maui Taufe’ulungaki - Minister for Education, Women’s Affairs and Culture.
The Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakano this morning, January 3, has named his new government, confirming that HM King George Tupou V has appointed seven Cabinet Ministers, while another five nominations including one woman nominee, will soon be confirmed.
Congratulations for Lord Tu’ivakano on behalf of Tongans in America. His elevation to Prime Minister can be interpreted as the people’s wish for stability over chaos: the 2006 Nuku’alofa riots; Princess Ashika disaster; judiciary instability; disturbing growth of corruptions in government; and the growing pains of a Third World Country economy. - Sione Akemeihakau Mokofisi.
HM King George Tupou V appointed Lord Tu’ivakano as Tonga’s new Prime Minister at noon today, December 22, during an audience at the king’s residence, The Villa. Lord Tu’ivakano, accompanied by his wife Lady Robyn Tu’ivakano, met with the king for nearly an hour. Lord Tu’ivakano is understood to have held his first meeting as Prime Minister with all Government Head of Departments this afternoon. He is also expected to make a national address to the people on December 23. His appointment today marks the start of the new democratic elected government in which he is expected to select his Cabinet on a date to be confirmed. The Government of Tonga starts its Christmas and New Year holidays from December 23, 2010 to January 3, 2011.
TONGA’S Interim Prime Minister Dr Feleti Sevele today concluded a five years term as Tonga’s Prime Minister in happy spirit after a special audience with HM King George Tupou V at The Villa, Mata-ki-‘Eua. It was a historical moment for the former Prime Minister who arrived at the villa just before 11am and then after nearly an hour of meeting with the king emerged very happy. He told local media that he had thanked His Majesty for the job that he had been blessed with as Prime Minister and he also sought the formal approval from the king to finish that role today. Dr Sevele also thanked the people of Tonga for their support in working together during his five-year term and he wished the new Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano and his new government all the best. He said the democratic election had been planned from the onset and was completed with Lord Tu’ivakano elected as Prime Minister and he was happy with the outcome. He pointed out that Lord Tu’ivakano had a wealth of experience as a Speaker of the Tonga Legislature for many years, a civil servant, a Government Minister and Nobles’ Representative. “And I am hopeful for his leadership in our new government,” he said. Dr Sevele said that one of the important tasks during his term was the Political Reform to which the king consented. Parliament had passed legislation in relation to the amendment of the Constitution. “A lot has been done,” he said. First commoner PM He reflected that it did not feel that it was too long ago since being appointed as the Prime Minister, five years ago. “I am happy that the job I was called to has been done and I want to thank His Majesty for his guidance and support to us in Cabinet and in Privy Council.” Dr Sevele said he would enjoy the Christmas holidays and then see what jobs were in store for him in the New Year. “There are many things to be done,” he said. The outgoing Prime Minister was accompanied by his wife ‘Ainise Sevele in the audience with the King. Dr Feleti Vaka’uta Sevele became the first commoner to take up the Prime Minister’s position after his appointment in March 2006.
THE Interim Speaker of the Tonga Legislative Assembly, Lord Tupou, must receive from elected representatives their nomination for a Prime Minister, on or before December 16, 2010 and the envelopes will be opened on December 17. At a press conference on December 3 Lord Tupou, clarified the procedure for the nomination and appointment of a Prime Minister. The presentation was attended by local media and about 10 elected representatives and some of the Noble’s Representatives. Lord Tupou said the nomination of a designated Prime Minister should be seconded or supported by two other elected representatives. He said that any representatives who had put through their nomination seconded by two candidates were not allowed to propose or second any other candidate. Any nomination contrary to this direction would be invalid. He said that the schedule required the Interim Speaker to call for nominations within 10 days from December 2, and all nominations for a Prime Minister Designate must be received by him within 14 days from December 2. The closed envelopes containing the nominations would be opened on 17 December by the Interim Speaker. Secret Ballot He added that within three days from December 16, he would hold a meeting of all elected Representatives of the People and of the Nobles to decide who they shall recommend to be appointed Prime Minister. At this first meeting a secret ballot would be conducted and if one candidate receives more than half the votes, the Interim Speaker shall report to the king, the name of the elected representatives recommendation for Prime Minister. The meeting would still continue, regardless, if some of the candidates do not turn up, he said. At the press conference at the Fa’onelua Convention Centre were PRs ‘Akilisi Pohiva, Sitiveni Halapua, Sione Taione, Kaveinga Fa’anunu, Sifa Tu’utafaiva, Semisi Tapueluelu, Sunia Fili, Lisiate ‘Akolo, ‘Uliti Uata and Viliami Latu. Nobles attending included Vaea, Tu’ivakano, Fusitu’a, Fakafanua, Lasike, Tu’iha’ateiho and Tu’ilakepa.
The Supervisor of Elections Pita Vuki returned the results of the Writ of Election to the King on Thursday, December 2 after the recount time frame for candidates ended.
LORD Tupou was appointed yesterday as the Interim Speaker of Tonga’s Legislative Assembly and will call for nominations for Tonga’s Prime Minister Designate. It is understood that King George Tupou V made the appointment of the Interim Speaker at around midday yesterday. The appointment will be announced at press conference set for 11:00 am today in Nuku’alofa, when the new Interim Speaker will explain the process for deciding who will become Tonga’s new Prime Minister. Lord Tupou is one of the king’s four law lords, and a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and a former judge. Meanwhile, last night Tonga’s caretaker Prime Minister Hon. Dr Feleti Sevele said that a new Prime Minister would be known within, “a couple of weeks.” He was speaking a function held at the residence of the Ambassador of Japan ‘Anana, held in honour of the birthday of the Emperor of Japan. The Supervisor of Elections Pita Vuki is expected to hand the Results of the Writ of Election to the king’s Lord Chamberlain, Viella Tupou, today.
The name of Tonga’s new Prime Minister should be known by Christmas, but the process of deciding the new government’s leadership may also run into the New Year depending on how long each step of the process takes.
THE Government of Tonga this morning, November 4 handed out about $1.2 million pa’anga to the next of kin of 14 victims who died in the sinking of the MV Princess Ashika ferry in August last year. Each family received a cheque of $80,000 pa’anga. This $80,000 handout came from government to the next of kin of the victims who had not filed any civil claims against government. At the same time it is understood that those who had already filed claims could also join the handout if they withdrew their claims, but they were advised to consult with their lawyers first. It was a sad occasion at the FWC Moulton Hall for the families of the 14 victims and many wept as they went up to receive their $80,000 cheque, which brought back sad memories of the tragic event. It was also confirmed that an initial $800,000 pa’anga was paid out last week to next of kin of nine victims in Vava’u and to one family in Ha’apai. Next-of-kin The Minister of Justice Hon Samiu Vaipulu told the sombre gathering of up to 30 family members at the Hall in Nuku’alofa that this was the final handing out of the “gift”, referring to the money handed out for families who lost members in the tragedy. The final hand out also continues tomorrow at the Ministry of Justice office in Nuku’alofa. Those who received their cheques this morning were those who had completed certain requirements under the law to determine who was the rightful next of kin to receive the money. “This hand-out is according to the law and to the rightful next of kin of a victim,” the minister said. This morning’s distribution amounted to about $1.2 million pa’anga in total. The Solicitor General ‘Aminiasi Kefu read out the names of 15 next of kin of the 14 victims, including two sons Sione and Heneli Filiai who lost their mother Liliani Filiai (53). They shared the $80,000 and received $40,000 cheque each. The Minister of Revenue Hon Tesina Fuko and the Minister of Justice handed out the cheques. Emergency Funds In September it was revealed by the Minister of Justice that Government had committed up to $6 million pa’anga from its $15 million National Emergency Funds for the distribution of the $80,000 each for 74 lives lost in the ferry sinking. At that time there were about 30 civil claims made against Government in the Supreme Court. However, it is understood now that some families who had lodged claims were backing out and instead choosing to receive the handout from government.