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Editor clarifies PACERPlus comment

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

The Editor would like to clarify a statement in our article entitled PM’s Cabinet incomplete. The statement was contained in a report of a Press Conference with the Prime Minister on March 23. We audio-recorded the press conference.

At the press conference, the Editor asked the Prime Minister a question about PACERPlus, in Tongan:

“Koeha ‘a e me‘a ‘oku hoko ki he PACERPlus koeni ‘oku tau  lau ko e kiai. ‘Oku kei hoko atu ha me‘a kiai?”

An English translation of the question is:

“What is happening to the PACERPlus that we have been talking about. What is happening?”

The Prime Minister’s response to this question in Tongan was:

“ ‘Io, ‘oku kei lele pe ‘a e consultation, manatu‘i ko e me‘a foki ia e taha mo ‘ene ‘Afio, ko e mafai foki koia ‘i he lau ‘a e Fakataha Tokoni, ko e mafai ia ‘o e Tu‘i, ke ‘oua er[inaudible] ko e sign ko e ‘o e PACERPlus, er[inaudible] ko e pango he na‘aku fakamo‘oni au kiai pea ‘oku ‘osi ‘i ai pe ‘eku tali ki ai. Ko ‘ene tu‘u ko e ‘i he taimini ‘oku te‘eki ke ratify ‘e he pule‘anga, ‘a ia ‘oku ‘uhinga leva ia er[inaudible] consultation. ‘Oku kei lahi ‘aupito ‘a e ‘u me‘a ia ke fai ‘a e tokanga ki ai.”

The English translation of the PM’s response is:

“Yes, consultation is still going on. Remember one of the issues relating to His Majesty, the authority [to sign international agreements] according to the Privy Council, is with the King er[inaudible] the signing of PACERPlus er[inaudible] unfortunately, I signed it, and I have got an answer to that. As it stands at the moment it has not been ratified by government, and that means er[inaudible] consultations. There is still a lot of work to be done.”

In our article, the Editor wrote in paragraph 15: “The Prime Minister admitted that after he signed the PACERPlus Trade Agreement, it was discovered to be inappropriate and now Tonga is no longer a signatary to the PACERPlus Trade Agreement”.

This paragraph was today disputed by the Prime Minister in a press release entitled "Prime Minister Denies Making Statement Regarding PACER Plus Attributed to Him in Matangitonga Article".

The Hon Prime Minister said, “I did not make that statement during my media conference on 23 March, nor did I say anything that even suggested, or could be translated or interpreted, that Tonga was no longer a signatory to the PACER Plus Agreement”.

Matangi Tonga Online would like to point out:

  1. The disputed paragraph is not a quote and has no quotation marks. The paragraph is a paraphrased translation and therefore an interpretation of the PM’s answer. It is attributed to the PM.
  2. The paragraph is written with the common understanding that Tonga’s signature to the PACER Plus agreement (made on 14 June 2017) was invalidated by the Acting Attorney General in August last year because the King had not approved it. Refer to the article Tonga's signing of PACER Plus "invalid" says Attorney General.
  3. The disputed paragraph is written with the understanding that the reason why the PACER Plus agreement has not been ratified is because the signature was invalid.

The Editor's paraphrasing of the PM’s response conveyed an understanding that the Prime Minister admitted that after he signed the PACERPlus Trade Agreement it was discovered to be inappropriate.

It was clear from the Prime Minister’s answer that he was informed by the Privy Council, that the King not the Prime Minister has the authority to sign such an agreement. The Prime Minister also expressed a sense of regret that it was unfortunate that he signed the agreement.

The error that we made was in attributing the second part of the statement to the PM that "now Tonga is no longer a signatory to the PACERPlus Trade Agreement."

The Editor extends a sincere apology to the Prime Minister and our readers for the mistake in our attribution to the PM of the words "no longer a signatory".