Party Deputy Chair Isileli Pulu clarifies on candidate list crisis

Kiliki heni ke ke lau ai e ongoongo ni ‘i he lea faka-Tonga

Tongan Democratic Party deputy chairman Isileli Pulu has continued to criticise the party candidate list announced by party leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva last week.

Pulu has also questioned the composition of the select committee that chose the candidates, claimed that candidates were being chosen according to which school they attended and asked who leaked details of the list to the Tongan press.

The list of candidates to contest this year’s election was announced last Thursday, June 12, by party leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva, but was rejected by party secretary Sione Havea Taione and Pulu, who claimed the party had yet to select its official candidate list.

Pohiva said his list was approved at the party meeting on June 12, when new members of the party were also registered.

Pulu claimed the registration of new party members was illegal.

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“The party is an incorporated entity known as The Friendly Island Democratic Party and the Tongan law stipulates only the existing members can deregister party members or recruit new members,” Pulu said.

“That is why I told Akilisi we have to work smart and work together with our sitting members as we are the legal members.”  

Pulu and MPs Falisi Tupou, Sione Havea Taione and Semisi Tapueluelu, along with Dr Sitiveni Halapua, did not attend the Thursday meeting.

Pohiva said the work of the select committee had been independent and that was the best option the party had for choosing its candidate list.  

Pulu said the select committee was not independent because one of its member, Siale Napa’a Fihaki, was one of the 14 registered members of the Democratic Party.

“With respect to Siale Fihaki, I questioned his involvement because he is one of our active party members,” Pulu said.

“We agreed to ask the Human Rights and Democracy Movement (HRDM) to do the selection for the party so that none of us were involved in the selection. “

He said it was unfair to have Fihaki in the select committee, but none of the party other members.  

He said he and Pohiva were appointed to attend the select committee meeting and to help them in any questions regarding the sitting members.

He said Pohiva had agreed to include Lepolo Taunisila, the deputy chair of the HRDM and Rev Tevita Koloamatangi in the select committee.

Pulu said he waited for Pohiva to come back to him with the members of the select committee, but claimed that he discovered that the party leader had met with the select committee regularly in April without him.

“That did not then really bother me because I trusted they were reliable people and could select the candidate list independently,” Pulu said. 

Suspicious

However, he said he became suspicious about the select committee and Pohiva and determined to go public with his criticism after he learnt that Pohiva’s newspaper Kele’a had published the select committee’s list without the party members seeing it first.

“’Akilisi gave me a list on June 10 and said that was the party official candidates’ list from the select committee,” Pulu said.

“When I looked at it, it was the same list published by Kele’a on June 9. The newspaper said in Tongan: Kele’a received reliable information that the candidate list published by the Kele’a for Tongatapu and ‘Eua was exactly the same list picked by the party.

“How could that happen?”

The same list of candidates was published by Taimi ‘o Tonga, but with a different description. The newspaper said in Tongan: “This newspaper has received information from one of the leaders of the Friendly Island Democratic Party saying they have selected 17 candidates for the party.”

Pulu said he e-mailed Taimi ‘o Tonga publisher Kalafi Moala and asked him to say who had given the paper the party’s candidate list.

According to Pulu, Moala refused to release the information.

Pulu said Akilisi’s newpaper dropped Falisi Tupou from its list and claimed that after he raised the matter with Pohiva the next edition of Kele’a  dropped Fifita and replace him with Falisi Tupou.

Pulu said Akilisi’s newpaper dropped Falisi Tupou from its list and claimed that after he raised the issue with Pohiva, the next issue of Kele’a  reinstated Tupou and dropped Fifita instead.

Pulu has continued to question the composition of the select committee and its decisions.

He asked why the deputy chair of the HRDM, Lepolo Taunisila, had not been appointed to the select committee.

“With respect to Semisi Sika, I questioned why the select committee still chose him as a party candidate,” Pulu said.

“He did not contribute much to the party and the select committee dropped party members who worked hard in parliament, including those who rejected offers to become ministers because of their loyalty to the party.”

School

He said the selection of Rev Simote Vea by the select committee to replace Dr Halapua was questionable because the chair of the select committee, Dr Ungatea Kata, worked  with Rev Vea at Tupou High School.

Kaniva News understands Dr Kata is the principal of the school while Rev Vea is the head tutor.

Pulu said that in the last general election 2010, Vea joined forces with candidates in a party then known as Labour Blue Network, one of the Democratic Party’s fiercest opponents.

The Democrat Party’s deputy chair said it appeared candidates had been selected according to where they went to school.

Pohiva went to Tupou College and Pulu said Penisimani Fifita, an ex-student of Tonga College, was named on Kele’a’s list of May 26. Fifita was replaced on the newspaper’s candidates’ June list by Falisi Tupou, an ex-student of Tupou College.

Sunia Fili, an ex-student of Tonga College and an active member of the party, was dropped and the select committee replaced him with Tevita Lavemaau an ex-student of Tupou College.

Select committee

The select committee’s chair, Dr Ungatea Kata, said the selection had been based on the party’s Memorandum of Understanding, minutes of parliament and assessment of the sitting MPs using what she said in Tongan ‘their experiences in life’.

Dr Kata said she understood their candidates’ list could not satisfy everyone, but that was the best she and the select committee could do.

The main points

  • Tongan Democratic Party deputy chairman Isileli Pulu has continued to criticise the party candidate list announced by party leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva last week.
  • Pulu has also questioned the composition of the select committee that chose the candidates, claimed that candidates were being chosen according to which school they attended and asked who leaked details of the list to the Tongan press.
  • The list of candidates to contest this year’s election the was announced last Thursday, June 12, by party leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva, but was rejected by party secretary Sione Havea Taione and Pulu, who claimed the party had yet to select its official candidate list.
  • Pohiva has continued to defend his list, insisting it was approved at the party meeting on June 12.
  • The select committee’s chair, Dr Ungatea Kata, said she understood their candidates’ list could not satisfy everyone, but that was the best she and the select committee could do.

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