MP Sione Taione breaks his silence after being dropped from Democratic Party candidates’ list

Kiliki heni: Lau 'a e ongoongo ni 'i he lea faka-Tonga

Tongatapu 8 MP Sione Havea Taione says he is struggling to comprehend why Democratic Party Leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva continues to support a candidates’ list that excludes him.

Taione says he has been loyal and dedicated to the party right from the beginning.

Taione said he refused to accept an offer from Lord Tu’ivakano’s government in 2012 to become Police Minister because he wanted to keep to the Democratic Party’s memorandum of understanding that party members would stand together to fight government corruption.

Taione, who is the Party's Secretary,  said Pohiva, Isileli Pulu and Uliti Uata left the party in 2010 and became ministers in the current government, implying they were the first to breach the unity the party members’ vow.

Read more: Taione denies he conspired to make Halapua Prime Minister

                   Party Deputy Chair 'Isileli Pulu clarifies on candidate list

Tonga’s Minister of Justice, Hon. Clive Edwards, said he contacted Taione when the Police Ministry became vacant after the then Police Minister, Hon Sunia Fili, resigned ahead of the vote of no confidence in 2012.

Edwards told Kaniva News: "I spoke with Sione Taione and asked him whether he wanted to become Tonga’s police minister because the ministerial post was vacant at the time and if he wanted it I would propose him to the Prime Minister as the suitable person for the post.

“Sione thanked me and said he wanted to stand together with ‘Akilisi as they had an MOU.”

“I respected Sione’s response as I understood he put his loyalty to ‘Akilisi before the opportunity I offered him.

Edwards said Taione was one of the key figures in the Democratic Party when it came to debate and discussion in the House.

Taione said he also met with Prime Minister Lord Tuivakano and Tu'ivakano invited him to become his Police minister but he still refused it saying he would still stay with the Party because they have an MOU.

Taione also revealed he refunded to government TP$7151 (NZ$4409) after his travel ticket to Israel on a parliamentary visit was downgraded from business class to economy.

The money was given to MPs to pay for their tickets. Normally MPs or ministers do not return the balance because they feel they are entitled to it.

Pohiva always maintained MPs and ministers should refund public fund they were given but they thought it was morally wrong for them to take it.

The select committee which drew up the Democratic Party’s list in early June said they dropped Taione because he supported Dr Sitiveni Halapua’s push for a coalition government.

Other sitting MPs dropped from the list include Sunia Fili, Dr Halapua and Semisi Tapueluelu.

Kafataha or Cabinet of National Unity

After the 2010 general election and while parliamentarians waited to elect the Prime Minister, Dr Halapua launched a campaign in support of what he called Pule’anga Kafataha or  "Cabinet of National Unity" or “Coalition Government”.

There are three kinds of seats in the Tongan parliament, one representing the nobility and two others for the government and commoners.

In the 26 seat parliament nine seats are reserved for nobles and the remaining 17 seats are for the people’s representatives.

Under Halapua’s proposal all parliamentarians would work together as a coalition.

According to Halapua,  members would have a conscience vote and could vote against their caucus.

The gist of the idea was that there would be no need for an opposition party because, in Dr Halapua’s words, all parliamentarians would work according to principles of love, honesty and peace.

Halapua wanted the Democratic Party to endorse the idea, but Pohiva said he thought the Coalition Government ideas needed close public scrutiny and discussion.

He later said Dr Halapua should promote his Kafataha ideal by himself and leave the party alone as it has a mission to fulfil by pushing to have the majority of representatives elected by the people to choose the Prime Minister.

Select committee report

The argument over Halapua’s proposal intensified in 2013 through local media, with Talaki newspaper running an article in which he discussed why he still thought his Kafataha system of ruling best suited Tonga.  

It was followed by an interview with Pohiva in Kele’a newspaper in which the Democratic Party leader likened Halapua’s idea of Kafataha to a theory that says the north and the south poles can be put together.

After the interview Pohiva’s supporters blasted Halapua, saying he was no longer loyal to the party.

Taione said Halapua had surrendered his Kafataha proposal for the moment.

He had written a booklet about the idea which was now on sale in bookshops. Halapua said he wanted people to read about the idea and if the party thought they could use the proposal it was there in booklet.

Taione said he was concerned that Pohiva was sticking to his newspaper’s claim that he, Halapua and Tapueluelu had plotted to overturn the party’s decision to campaign for Pohiva to become the Prime Minister.

Halapua said the claim was false.

The committee said Tapueluelu and Taione had been dropped for supporting the Kafataha proposal because  it constituted a breach of the party’s MOU.

The committee said Sunia Fili was dropped because he defected and became a minister in 2010 in the current government.

Pohiva has announced that he is sticking by the select committees’ list and that they are the candidates he endorses for the November election.

Democratic Party Deputy Leader ‘Isileli Pulu said he had regularly met with Pohiva recently to try to change his mind.

Pulu said that for the select committee to base its decision on support for the Kafataha idea was weak and pathetic.  

The main points

  • Tongatapu 8 MP Sione Havea Taione says he is struggling to understand why he has been dropped from the Democratic Party’s list of candidates for the November election.
  • Taione says he has been loyal and dedicated to the party right from the beginning.
  • He said he was concerned that Party Leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva continued to support the candidates’ list that excludes him.
  • Taione said claims by Pohiva’s newspaper’s Kele’a that he had been part of a plot to overturn the party’s decision to campaign for Pohiva to become Prime Minister were false.

For more information

‘Tonga's democratic challenges in 2014: Speaking with the MPs' (The Economist)

‘Tongan Ministers resign’ (Sydney Daily Telegraph)

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