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Tonga politics: a strange, and volatile situation

Newcastle, Australia

Dear Editor,

I would like to write a brief reply addressing the February 11th letter from Rev Dr Ma'afu Palu titled "King has executive authority over Government." Rev Dr Palu makes a crucial mistake in asserting that the King has executive authority over government, as the King does not.

Per Clause 51(1) of the Constitution: "The executive authority of the Kingdom shall vest in the Cabinet, which shall be collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly for the executive functions of the Government."

While the King does have the power to dissolve the Assembly (Clause 38), he does not have sole executive authority over the entire government.

Clause 51(3) of the Constitution clearly states that:

    A Minister shall retain his position as Minister until –

        his appointment is revoked by the King on the recommendation of the Prime Minister or in accordance with clause 50B;
        he dies, resigns or is dismissed from office following impeachment under clause 75; or
        he becomes ineligible to hold the office in accordance with this Constitution or any other law:

As of writing, there is yet to be a formal vote of no confidence on this matter, therefore, there is nothing executively that the King himself can do to remove PM Hon. Hu'akavameiliku or Minister 'Utoikamanu from their ministerial positions until such a vote takes place, which it very well might. Rev Dr Palu's assertions that these two ministers could be charged with high treason seem mostly to be hyperbole.

The King can, as stated before, dissolve parliament, however there is only a brief period of time in which parliament can be dissolved before a new election or appointment must take place (as per Clause 38).

This is a strange, and volatile situation. Contrary to what Rev Dr Palu implies, it would be better for Tonga if the King was to cooperate with the PM, not the other way around.

Cheers, Max K. (pseudonymn)


Dear Editor,

I’m writing in response to the letter entitled “Tonga politics: a strange, and volatile situation” published on the 2nd of March 2024 by a man not bold enough to show his real identity. He argues that I made a “crucial mistake in asserting that the King has executive authority over the government as the King does not.”

Though Clause 51(1) indeed says that the “executive authority of the Kingdom shall vest in the Cabinet which shall collectively be responsible to the Legislative Assembly for the executive functions of the Government” nevertheless Clause 50A tells us that without the King’s consent the PM election cannot be approved:
“The King shall appoint from amongst the elected representatives a Prime Minister who is recommended by the Legislative Assembly…”

Moreover, the PM, according to Clause 50A(3) “shall regularly and as required report to the King upon matters that have arisen with the government and upon the state of the country”. I don’t know how one can understand this any other way, but it does indicate that the King, still holds authority over the PM who runs the Cabinet, and that the PM is to report to the King regularly regarding administration matters.

So, in Clause 51(3) on the Cabinet, “A Minister shall retain his position as Minister until – (a) his appointment is revoked by the King on the recommendation of the Prime Minister or by clause 50B”

Clause 50B is about the Prime Minister’s appointment being revoked by a Vote of No Confidence. Again, Clause 50B (4)(a) includes the power of the King to dissolve Parliament and appoint an interim government as caretaker till a new election is held. Once again, this indicates that the King’s power holds sway over the executive power of the Cabinet.

In the matter of the King revoking the Prime Minister and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, the revocation by the King is prioritized in the Clause. This means his authority is prominent in the matter. I take it that the Cabinet is interpreting the Clause as if the recommendation of the PM is primarily for the revocation of a Minister’s appointment.

However, this matter includes the PM himself who is being revoked from the portfolio of the Armed Forces. How can the PM recommend himself to be revoked if the King is dissatisfied with his performance? So, in a situation like this, the King has the right to revoke the PM’s position. In response, the PM should in receiving his revocation show his "recommendation" by stepping down from the portfolio.

Clause 38 of the Constitution affirms the executive authority of the King over the Parliament: “The King may convoke the Legislative Assembly at any time and may dissolve it at his pleasure and command that new representatives of the nobles and the people be elected to enter the Assembly.”

I hope and pray that the PM and his Foreign Affair Minister will hand in their resignations from the appointments revoked by the King soon, and not draw the matter to a point that it forces the King to dissolve the Parliament again and call for a new election since he has indicated his dissatisfaction with the performance of the PM in one of his portfolios.

Faka’apa’apa atu,
Rev Dr Ma’afu Palu (‘Onemalama)