I refer to your article this morning entitled PM Pohiva and Lord Sevele at odds over hosting Pacific Games, and wish to make a few statements of facts and corrections.
The Hon Fe'ao Vakata is absolutely correct in saying that the Organizing Committee, chaired by Lord Sevele, is not only the official Organizing Committee of the 2019 Pacific Games, but is the Committee established by an Act of Parliament. The Pacific Games Organization Act 2013 (Act No.2 of 2013) is entitled: An Act to establish a Statutory Authority Independent of Government to organize, oversee and conduct the South Pacific Games in Tonga in 2019 and generally provide for the good organization of those games.
The Organizing Committee, under its statutory powers pursuant to the above Act, appointed Lord Sevele as its CEO and Chairman. It is also the Organizing Committee which has the sole statutory authority over the termination of Lord Sevele's appointment.
In response to the PM's demand for his resignation, the Committee unanimously voted for Lord SeveIe to disregard the PM's demand as Lord Sevele, the Committee and the staff had done a lot of work towards fulfilling their mandates.
The Organizing Committee membership include well-known and well-respected Tongans who have made, and are making important contributions to Tonga in various fields, including sports and sports administration, and are placed better to appreciate the work of Lord Sevele and his staff of two for the first 18 months of their tenure. They are: Lord Tupou, Hon. Tupou 'Ahome'e Tuita Fa'upula, Loukinikini 'Ahio, Semisi Sika MP, Ross Chapman, Fakahau Vatu, Paea Wolfgram (former Olympian), Andrew Minogue (Rep. Pacific Games Council), and CEO's of five Ministries, and the Prime Minister's own Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet.
On the allegations of mismanagement of NZ Aid funds for the Teufaiva Stadium Upgrade, this is a blatant untruth and misuse of written information by the PM, as, surely, it cannot be through a lack of understanding of simple English sentences. The letter from the NZ High Commission to the Government of Tonga states: "Of New Zealand's overall NZD$ 2 million commitment to the Teufaiva Stadium upgrade, NZD$1.898 million remains. This is the balance after a deduction of NZD$102, 000 what we have provided in full to the Ministry of Finance and National Planning for the Stadium Upgrade Design and Games Venue Master Plan".
How the PM interprets the above as there being a shortage or missing funds to the tune of NZD$98,304.16 is a puzzle, which only the PM can explain. It should be clearly stated that the Organizing Committee has never handled any of these funds - only the NZ High Commission and the Ministry of Finance and National Planning.
The only funds that have been secured for the Games are the above mentioned NZD$2 million from the NZ Government, negotiated by Lord Sevele, and the TOP$33 million grant aid from the Chinese Government for the Tonga High School Sports Complex - a project negotiated and approved during Lord SeveIe's time as PM, a visionary foresight of His Late Majesty King George Tupou V.
All the preliminary works for the Teufaiva Stadium Upgrade Project have been ready for months, but the Prime Minister has not done his part in funding the necessary funding. This is what's delaying the start of the project.
By this statement, as a sportsperson, a sports administrator and a patriotic Tongan, I am appealing to the Prime Minister to stand aside and concentrate on his due role of acquiring funds for the facilities, and allow us in the Organizing Committee, the Audit and Governance Authority and Government Facilities Committee to get on with the preparations for the Games. They are progressing well. This is a National Project, not to be treated as a personal and political football.
Ex-officio Member of the Pacific Games Organizing Committee
Director of Venues, Organizing Committee