Near-brawl ends Tonga Democratic Party’s meeting

Kiliki heni ke lau 'a e ongoongo ni 'i he lea faka-Tonga

The Democratic Party’s meeting on Wednesday to announce its candidates for this year’s election  was cancelled after it almost turned into a brawl.

Party Deputy Chairman ‘Isileli Pulu and candidate member  ‘Ipeni  Siale became involved in a heated debate which got so bad that a security guard warned he would call police.

Pulu moved for party leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who was chairing the meeting,  to revoke the list. He claimed the selection of candidates was ‘biased,’ ‘dirty,’  ‘unfair’ and ‘fishy.’  

Pohiva has denied the claims.

The candidate list was selected by an independent select committee of three who were not members of the party.

Siale told Kaniva News he pushed for the party to declare its candidate list for Tongatapu now because time was running short and there was a lot to do for the campaign.

Siale returned to Tonga this year to run for Parliament as the Democratic Party’s candidate.  He stands for Vava'u 16.

He won the Vava’u island electorate in 1987, but was debarred from Parliament because he then held a US passport.

Pulu told the meeting, which was held in the Parliamentary conference room,  that a reliable source had told him Pohiva had influenced the committee’s selection.  

He claimed Pohiva dictated to the committee which of the party’s current members of parliament would be replaced and by whom.

Pohiva told Kaniva News this morning he was appointed by the party to help the select committee in clarifying questions that might be faced by the party’s sitting MPs.

He said the select committee’s candidate list was independently picked and he denied he had any involvement. 

“There was a report from the select committee and it has all the details,” Pohiva said.

“I was there only to assist them if there was any queries about the sitting members.”  

The select committee members were Dr ‘Ungatea Kata, Siale Napa’a Fihaki and Tali Makahuniniu.

They are all members of the Tonga’s  Human Rights and Democracy Movement.

Pulu said he was selected by the party as deputy so he could help Pohiva  attend the select committee meetings,  but claimed Pohiva met with the committee  without his knowledge.

Siale said he was disappointed with the way Pulu presented himself in the meeting after he accused him of pushing Pohiva’s Kele’a and the Taimi ‘o Tonga newspapers to release a list of the party’s proposed candidates without the party’s approval.     

The two newspapers said their list of proposed candidates was their own pick and it did not have anything to do with any list proposed by the party.

The select committee’s list dropped party members for Tongatapu 3 MP Dr Sitiveni Halapua, Tongatapu 8 MP Sione Havea Taione and Tongatapu 10 MP Semisi Tapueluelu.

The list is similar to the proposed candidates’ list published by the two newspapers  two weeks ago. This has prompted  suspicion among party members that Pohiva had decided on the party’s candidate list himself and that the establishment of the select committee was only a pretence.  

The only difference in the lists is that the select committee keeps MP Falisi Tupou .

Pulu claimed that putting Tupou on the select committee’s list was a deliberate ploy to deflect suspicion that Pohiva had any involvement in naming the candidates’ list.

“I told ‘Akilisi we have to work smart and watch-out for any new members as we have not known about their history,” he said.

Pulu claimed that some party supporters from Sipa’ila had expressed concerns which had passed on to Pohiva.

He said this was not good for the party’s campaign and could be used  by the party’s opponents.

“That is why I told ‘Akilisi to slow down and let us work together with the candidates we have.”

The main points

  • The Democratic Party’s meeting on Wednesday to announce its candidates for this year’s election  was cancelled after it almost turned into a brawl.
  • Party Deputy Chairman ‘Isileli Pulu and candidate member  ‘Ipeni  Siale became involved in a heated debate which got so bad that a security guard warned he would call police.
  • Pulu said the list should be revoked and said it had been influenced by party leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva.
  • Pohiva has denied the claims.

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