You are here


Democracy and Nepotism

London, United Kingdom

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

Dear Sir

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.

Senolita Swan
United Kingdom.


Democracy & Political Parties: Ko e fakakaukau 'o e 'democracy' ke fili 'ehe kakai 'a e kau taki 'o e pule'anga. Ko e 'political parties' ko e ngaahi faha'i fakapolitikale 'oku 'i ai 'enau ngaahi tefito'i tui, pea mo 'enau ngaahi fokotu'utu'u ke fakalele'aki 'a e pule'anga kapau 'e fili kinautolu 'e he kakai. Ko e pule'anga 'Amelika 'oku fakalele 'e he 'Depocrat Party', pea mahalo 'oku laka hake he 95% 'o e fa'ahinga 'oku nau fakalele pule'anga (White house,Federal Gov't etc) ko e kau 'democrat'. Ko e 'nepotism' nai 'eni pe 'ikai?. Mahalo 'oku tatau pe mo Pilitania, mo e ngaahi fonua lahi. Ko e tefito'i fakaukau 'o e 'nepotism' 'o kapau na'e fokotu'u 'ehe palemia ia hono foha ke tokoni palemia, pe minisita, hange koia na'e hoko 'i he kuonga motu'a. Tau fakakaukau ange ki he tu'unga ko'eni 'personal assistant' koe'uhi koe 'health issue' 'ae palemia, pea 'oku 'oange pe ki hono foha he 'oku anga faingofua pe kiai. Hange 'oku fili pe 'ehe palesiteni 'Amelika ia ha'ane toketa 'oku ne loto kiai ke tokanga'i 'ene mo'ui. 'Oku 'ikai koha palopalema ia. ( common sense).......SAIA

Keep up the good work, Hon. PM.
The PM must keep on doing whatever he is doing at the moment for he is on the right track; for not only the opposition don’t appear to understand what nepotism is, let alone if it is nepotism at all that the PM has committed, but it appears also that it is not ‘nepotism’ that really upsets them. They just can’t find one wrongdoing by the new PM, who fought corruption in government most of his life, so they accuse him of nepotism instead.
SAIA has rightly hit the nail on the head. For the problem with the opposition, for example, as exposed in the above article, is that they must have to critically define ‘nepotism’ first and say why it is bad, and link that to why the PM has chosen his son and the kind of man that we have known him to be, to see if it is nepotism at all. They should have thoroughly and unbiasedly dealt with such matter first before going public and exposing their sorrow.
If the concern in the above article has been in anticipation of the “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” as raised in the above article’s paragraph 5, then Sefita Haouli has rightly made a counter-reply elsewhere here asking “And should close family members be denied an opportunity to work where they want to work because we don't have a good and transparent process to manage conflicts of interest?” And the answer is no, they should not be. And for centuries organisations have done just that, by ensuring first of all that the necessary benchmark for selection is primarily grounded on abilities.
Democracy is fundamentally about ‘rule by the citizens in general’ or recently ‘by the people in general’, rather than about fairness, though fairness is an ideal element of democracy. For we can still have ‘rule by the people in general’ without fairness.
And in that sense to equate democracy to fairness is essentially mistaken. Equivalently, to imply that the PM’s act is nepotism and therefore breaches fairness is meaningless if we don’t understand the essence of nepotism, let alone fairness. Therefore, we are not in a position to talk about the principles of democracy in light of the PM’s act in this particular case.
So, not knowing what else to do to get back at him for hurting them, they have only been able to miserably accuse the PM of committing a grave crime in selecting his own son as his PA in the name of democracy and claim how the Tongan people and democracy itself have been the victims, so that the PM has lost the moral right to preach about democracy, all as a result of nepotism.
But they have not been able to show whether or not they have properly understood the essence of the charge which they brought upon him, let alone the fundamental link between democracy and fairness.
Sosefo Holani
New Zealand

Hange kiate au 'oku 'ikai ko e palopalema e "nepotism", ko e palopalema ko hono tukuaki'i 'oku hala e "nepotism" he ta'u 'e 28 kuo maliu atu pea tafoki hake pe 'o toe fai e fo'i me'a tatau pea tala leva ia 'oku sai pe he na'e fai pehe pe pule'anga 'o e kuohili 'o a'u mai kihe faka'osinga 'o e 2014 .... malie ee!