I've got no personal axe to grind with PTOA leader 'Akilisi Pohiva but I think he has forgotten, to the detriment of his party and to himself, that politics is the art of being practical. Although he is paying dearly for this oversight, the rest of the country are also footing the bill for the absence of any effective opposition in the House - and denying us the fruits of an effective democracy.
As leader, he should now expect his party of MPs to ask what has been obvious for some time: Do they still have confidence in his political leadership? In case anyone has forgotten, here are some low-lights as evidence. The party, on their own admission, went into the elections unprepared for an event which he had spent more than 30 years preparing for. In spite of widespread popular sentiments, he failed to get them over the line to form a government. He also failed to negotiate the party into a political advantage when the PM offered him an olive branch to join Cabinet. Instead, he dithered, demurred and eventually declined the health portfolio, and to this day offered no rational explanation on why 'Isileli Pulu and 'Uliti Uata were able to help form a government only to leave with no political gain for themselves as a party. The ill-conceived and poorly timed attempt to topple the PM speaks for itself this week - and made possible through losing one of his own lieutenants to the other side. As leader, the buck stops with him.
It can be said that he will have in Halapua, Tu'utafaiva, Taione, Eke and others a talent pool that can make up a shadow Cabinet and to put alternative policies to signal that they are truly a viable alternative and will be able to govern if given the opportunity. Under 'Akilisi's political leadership we have had no substantial contribution from the PTOA members to suggest that they have a comprehensive set of policies to push the government to perform or do better. Instead, we continue to see the a one-trick pony with the same antics and stunts in the House and outside, which focuses more on him than on the pressing issues of the day. The accusations leveled unfairly at the Minister of Education recently is just one of many. It could be that this is all that 'Akilisi is capable of and that's fine, but clearly the country deserves better from its institutions and in this case, the so-called opposition.
There's a need for a new vote of no confidence - this time within the ranks of PTOA. Or, perhaps, 'Akilisi may put the best interest of the country ahead of his own and step aside so that the country can get the best out of all of our parliamentarians - in government or in opposition.
Auckland, New Zealand