Let the people decide, says Democratic Party deputy leader

Tonga’s Democratic Party’s ousted MPs have announced they will recognise the party’s candidate list, but will still run against official party candidates in the November election.

The Party’s Deputy Leader, MP ‘Isileli Pulu, said they arrived at the decision after a meeting in which they agreed not to draw up a rival list of party candidates.

Pulu did not name the party members who made the final decision, but Leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva did not attend the meeting. He was told later about what had been agreed.

Pulu said the members had agreed they would support whichever party members won the election in November.

He said Pohiva had rejected a proposal to let candidates from both lists to campaign together and let voters pick who they wanted to vote for.

Four Party sitting MPs were dropped from the party’s list after a select committee picked a new list of candidates for the November election.

They are Dr Sitiveni Halapua for Tongatapu 3, Sione Havea Taione for Tongatapu 8,  MP Semisi Tapueluelu for Tongatapu 10 and Sunia Fili for ‘Eua.

The list met with hefty criticisms from Deputy Leader ‘Isileli Pulu and MP Falisi Tupou, who said the selection was biased and influenced by

Tonga's Democratic Party Members of Parliament outside Tonga's Legislative Assembly after the House last session two weeks ago.
Tonga’s Democratic Party Members of Parliament outside Tonga’s Legislative Assembly after the House last session for the year 2014.

Leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva and his son-in-law, Mateni Tapueluelu.

Pohiva removed Pulu and Tupou from the list without warning, claiming they were dropped because they regularly criticised him and the Party’s select committee. Pohiva told Pulu and Tupou their reaction to the list indicated they did not want to work together with him and the new team of candidates.

Pulu and Tupou went public and declared they would not support a list that had been unfairly selected. They also boycotted meetings conducted by Pohiva after he declared his endorsement of the select committee’s candidate list.

Tapueluelu, who is also the editor of Pohiva’s Kele’a newspaper, published what he said was his own list of candidates for the Tautahi, the outer islands.

Pohiva later endorsed his editor’s list without referring it to the Party prompting Pulu to publicly announce that the party had yet to select the Tautahi’s list. Pulu continued criticising Pohiva’s action, calling it ‘dirty’ and ‘fishy’.

Pohiva’s son-in-law

The Party has selected Tapueluelu to run for Tongatapu 4 against Pulu.

The decision was made last week after the Party received a report based on a survey conducted at Tongatapu 4 by a group of nine it requested from Haveluloto led by Vilisoni Tu’iniua Ngalu.

According to the survey, the interviewers asked selected constituents at Tongatapu 4 to pick who they wanted to be their MP from a proposed list of seven candidates.

The list included Similoni Tu’akalau, a current Police Magistrate and Soane Vahe, the director of Catholic Schools.

The party list now consists largely of candidates endorsed by Tapueluelu and Pohiva. Tapueluelu has been nominated to run for Tongatapu 4.

When asked what he thought about the selection of Tapueluelu to run against him Pulu said he wanted to let the people to choose who they wanted to represent them in Parliament.

Pulu was first elected to parliament in 2002 and has been returned at every election since then.

The main points

  • Tonga’s Democratic Party’s ousted MPs have announced they will recognise the party’s candidate list, but will still run against official party candidates in the November election.
  • The Party’s Deputy Leader, MP ‘Isileli Pulu, said they had agreed to support whichever party members won the election in November.
  • He said Pohiva had rejected a proposal to let candidates from both lists to campaign together and let voters pick who they wanted to vote for.
  • Leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s son-in-law, Mateni Tapueluelu, has been chosen to run against Pulu in the election.

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