Pohiva sacks Democracy Movement’s deputy leader

Kiliki heni ki he ongoongo faka-Tonga

Updated: The fear that power to run the government of Tonga will remain with the minority nobles’ faction appears to loom large after two more Democratic Party candidates were sacked last week.

Leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva has booted out his party’s Deputy Leader, MP ‘Isileli Pulu, and MP Falisi Tupou.

Pulu said the Democratic Movement lost the chance to run the government after the 2010 election to the nobles because the Party fired one MP, Sunia Fili. Now Pohiva had sacked six of them.

There are now two rival candidate teams from the Friendly Islands Democratic Party, more popularly known as Tonga's Democratic Party, standing for the November election.

Pulu told Kaniva News the six MPs were not on the list of candidates chosen by the select committee and endorsed by Pohiva. He said he, Tupou and others who are members of the Democratic Party, but were dropped by the select committee, will pick their candidate list on August 29.

Earlier this year four sitting MPs were dropped amidst accusations of disloyalty.

In letters to Tupou and Pulu, dated August 12, Pohiva said they had been sacked because they repeatedly criticised him and the candidate’s list chosen by the Party’s select committee from the Human Rights and Democracy Movements Committee.

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Pohiva said Pulu and Tupou were no longer sticking to the party’s mission and vision and this made it hard for them to work with the party.

The long-time democratic campaigner expressed his concerns that Pulu’s reaction to the select committee’s candidate list was designed to confuse voters before he finally announced his list of candidates for the November elections.

Pohiva said Pulu did not support the candidate list because he still favoured the four party MPs dropped by the committee – Dr Sitiveni Halapua, Sione Havea Taione, Semisi Tapueluelu and Sunia Fili.

Pohiva said in his letter that the MPs were no longer loyal to him.

The Democratic Movement leader told Tupou he had missed recent party meetings without tendering an apology. He also accused Tupou of having a personal agenda and putting disloyal candidates before him and the party’s policy platform.

Pulu and Tupou claimed the dismissal of the four party MPs was unwarranted. They said the MPS were not given the chance to respond to accusations made against them and the process of their removal was influenced by Pohiva.

Kele’a newspaper published a candidate’s list for the party in May and said it was its own list. The Democratic Party members ignored it at the time and ‘Isileli Pulu told Kaniva News they would probably meet to select the party list in August.

Not long after Pulu was interviewed by Kaniva,  Pohiva announced that a list drawn up by  the select committee was the party’s candidate list. The only difference was that Kele’a’s list omitted MP Falisi Tupou, while the select committee reinstated him.

The announcement prompted Pulu to publicly question the authenticity of the two lists, asking why two independently compiled lists were so similar.

Tupou claimed he was only reinstated by the select committee to deflect any suspicion that Pohiva had endorsed a list drawn up by his son-in-laws, Kele’a editor Mateni Tapueluelu’s,  without the party’s approval.

Suspicious

Pulu claimed the candidate list selected by the select committee was engineered by Tapueluelu and given to Pohiva to pass on to the committee for endorsement.

Dr Ungatea Kata, chairperson of the select committee,  responded to Pulu’s criticisms in Kele’a, but did not directly deny that Pohiva had given them the list. Instead, she said the selection of candidates had been  independent and impartial.

In his letter to Pulu, Pohiva did not deny the claim that he had co-opted his editor’s ideas and departed from the party’s manifesto, but said it was normal for his newspaper to select a candidate’s list before general elections.

Pulu suggested to Pohiva it would be better if all members of the party, including the newly selected candidates and members who had been dropped, campaigned together as one team and let the people select who they wanted to go to Parliament.

In his letter Pohiva said he feared that Pulu’s suggestion would confuse voters and the election campaign would fail.

Pulu entered Parliament in 2002 and has said that he would not have been elected without Pohiva’s support.

The main points

  • There are now two rival candidate teams from the Friendly Island [Island or Islands?] Democratic Party, more popularly known as Tonga's Democratic Party, standing for the November election.
  • This follows the sacking earlier this week of the party’s Deputy Leader, MP ‘isileli [is it ‘isileli or ‘Isileli?] Pulu and MP Falisi Tupou by party Leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva.
  • Earlier this year four sitting MPs were dropped amidst accusations of disloyalty.
  • Pulu told Kaniva News he, Tupou and others who are members of the Democratic Party, but were dropped from the election candidate’s list by the select committee, will pick their own candidate list on August 29.

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