Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Tonga
Hon. Prime Minister Mr Samiuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva
Prime Minister’s Office, Nuku’alofa, Tonga
22nd January 2015
Subject: Democracy and Nepotism
For almost 30 years, you championed the idea that the political system in Tonga was un-democratic. You criticized King Tupou IV. King Tupou V, King Tupou VI when he was the Prime Minister, Princess Pilolevu, former Prime Ministers, former Cabinet Ministers, Civil Servants and anyone else who was unlucky enough to fall foul of your high moral judgement; you proudly did it all in the name of democracy. You even took most of them to court for one allegation after another.
Running up to the general election last year, there was a hint to some of us who observed your campaign that your political judgement was clouded with nepotism. There was also a hint then that you were not in full control of what went on in the PTOA. For example, you removed very experienced members of your party from the list of candidates chosen to run for parliament in 2014 and replaced them with your cronies and son in law; gentlemen like Dr Halapua, Semisi Tapueluelu to name but a few were chucked out without being given a proper platform to hear the reason why they were chucked out or the opportunity to defend any accusation laid against them. Democracy is about fairness, and fairness was missing from your leadership style then. Alarm bells were ringing, but it was difficult for any of us to alert the public to your character as around that time, you had already hypnotised your voters and supporters by continuously publicising one accusation after another from the past in order to distract their focus from what really went on. Some of the Tonga media and your supporters were frantic in their printing and distribution of these allegations to make sure that Tonga chose you as the Prime Minister; and these activities were all supposedly done in the name of democracy.
Your effort paid off when on the 29th December 2014, you were elected Prime Minister of Tonga. Though I still had doubt then as to whether you will turn Tonga to a democratic society or not, like many others, I put away my fears and joined in the celebration of your achievement. And when I read your first speech as the PM, talking about cleaning up the civil servants’ act and spelling out high moral code for the chosen ministers, I was very elated; ‘woohhhooooo, now we are talking real progress’, I thought. But merely a few weeks from the beginning of your term in office, Tonga was hit with the first complaint about your leadership; mostly about your lack of good judgement and amazingly about nepotism: ‘the Prime Minister of Tonga chose his own son to be his PA! Yeah, ‘Akilisi Pohiva, the very person who lectured his ministers, civil servants and Tonga to clean up their act denied that having his son as his PA is nepotism! What!
May I take this opportunity to thank Lord Vaea for asking the ‘nepotism’ question in Parliament on behalf of the Tongan people at home and abroad. Who would have thought it; the noble side of the house defend democracy by highlighting this undemocratic failing whilst attempts were made by some of the peoples’ representatives to play it down. Hon. Eke’s explanation of what goes on behind the scenes in respect of the PM’s son makes one a little suspicious. It appears that you and some members of your Government are trying to re-write the rules and regulations to accommodate nepotism.
We now have a situation in Tonga whereby every minister, leaders of organisations, churches and civil service can have their sons, daughters, wives and mistresses working with them. ‘Action speaks louder than words,’ and judging by your action, ‘nepotism’ is alright in your political world Sir.
The question most Tongans ask now is: ‘Where does it leave the principles of democracy in Tonga?’ And the answer: ‘In the gutter!’
Apparently your justification for your action is that you are not well and that you only trust your son. Is this part of the trick to get sympathy for your action or are you purposely setting out to patronise and abuse the trust bestowed upon you by the Tongan people. The view from afar is that you have your son with you so that he can do the job for you. Effectively, it appears that an unelected person is running the Government of Tonga.
Finally, I would like to point out that there is nothing worse than a pretend victim weeping from the podium hoping to gain sympathy for him and his son, all in the name of democracy. The real victims here are the Tongan people and democracy itself. In that respect, Hon Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, in order to preserve the dignity of democracy in Tonga, I am obliged to be blunt with my political comment: you may have the right to choose your son as your own PA but for the rest of your political career, you do not have the moral right to preach about democracy in Tonga or anywhere else anymore. Your action has crippled democracy in the Kingdom, sadly for a very long time.