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EDITORS’ NOTE: We have edited this article to reflect the fact that the former Acting Attorney General did not draft a letter of resignation for Late ‘Akilisi Pōhiva. In fact, there was no such letter.

MP Māteni Tapueluelu, who was also the late ‘Akilisi Pōhiva’s son-in-law, has revealed in what appears to be a letter he sent to the Democratic (PTOA) Party’s Leader and Chairman Sēmisi Sika, that the late Prime Minister wanted to resign five months before he died in September 2019.

Tapueluelu’s revelations appear to be his responses to demands from  Chairman Sika to reply within five days or may face dismissal from the Party. The Party was expected to meet tomorrow Monday 21 to decide the future of Tapueluelu.

The Party’s strong overseas chapters and frontliners have accused Tapueluelu of being power-hungry and causing chaos within the party. Tapueluelu has denied these.

The letter, which was leaked to Kaniva News,  claimed that ‘Akilisi’s eldest son Siaosi Pōhiva and people who were very close to ‘Akilisi at the time, but were not Members of Parliament or Party members, gave the late leader of the democrats  wrong advice to stay in the premiership until his death.

Tapueluelu accused Siaosi of engaging with these people in power struggle which led to the demise of the Party before last year’s premiership election.

Siaosi told Kaniva News he was unmoved by his brother-in-law’s allegations against him because he had done nothing wrong and he had submitted his full response to Chairman Sika.

Tapueluelu was contacted for comment.

PTOA loses premiership election

Hon Tapueluelu claimed the Party lost the government after some of the Party’s MPs, led by current Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa, defected and formed the new People’s Party with Noble MPs before they won the premiership election last year, because of the wrong advice given to ‘Akilisi by Siaosi and others.

Tapueluelu said if ‘Akilisi’s resignation had happened according to plan, he would have been able to assist  a smooth transition of power and make sure the party still won the following premiership election.

The leaked letter also claimed the then Acting Attorney General, ‘Aminiasi Kefu, gave legal advice about ‘Akilisi’s plan to resign. The written legal advice was then allegedly labeled ‘Strictly Confidential’ before it was passed on to Tapueluelu to hand it over to ‘Akilisi in about April 2019.

Tapueluelu, who claimed he worked with ‘Akilisi for about 19 years and had helped him organised three consecutive election campaigns, said he handed the letter to ‘Akilisi and waited.

“April passed then May, June, July and August then the Prime Minister became seriously ill before he died,” Tapueluelu said in Tongan.

Phone call claim

He said before ‘Akilisi died he was “so surprised” when he allegedly received a phone call from Siaosi telling him he did not want ‘Akilisi to resign. He claimed Siaosi said the people owed it to ‘Akilisi to continue on as Prime Minister until he died.

Tapueluelu said this was in conflict with what ‘Akilisi had allegedly told him to do about his plan to resign with dignity – (“mālōlō fakahau”.)

Tapueluelu’s leaked letter which appears to have been written on March 6 2020, claimed  that when ‘Akilisi became seriously ill he repeatedly asked his media adviser, Lopeti Senituli, about the resignation letter.

Chairman Sika demands response

The leaked letter purportedly showed that Chairman Sika demanded Tapueluelu explain why he no longer attended the party’s board meetings and why Tapueluelu had accused other Party members without them knowing about it. The party also wanted a clear explanation about his membership status.

Tapueluelu’s letter has divided the PTOA Party supporters overseas with the US stronghold and  frontliners calling on Chairman Sika to dismiss him.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand PTOA officials split with some said they were behind both Siaosi and Tapueluelu and called for reconciliation. Others said they wanted him out of the Party.

Party in disarray

A number of  PTOA chapters were set up in New Zealand, Australia and the US after ‘Akilisi’s death. They have been extremely active in supporting the Party’s core team.

There was an attempt in New Zealand to have all chapters come under one umbrella after a committee was elected and named as PTOA New Zealand. However, this was opposed by some supporters, including the PTOA Auckland Aotearoa, which said it wanted to work directly with the core team in Tonga and not go through PTOA New Zealand.

That dispute in New Zealand was toned down after MP Siaosi visited Auckland two months after replacing his father as MP for Tongatapu 1.

He told PTOA fans during a welcoming feast in Mangere, South Auckland, hosted by the party supporters that every chapter would be free to contact the core team in Nuku’alofa directly.

Despite the statement from Siaosi, who is also the secretary of the Core Team, New Zealand supporters kept debating on Facebook about who should lead them in New Zealand.

The PTOA chapters overseas called on  the PTOA’s core team to publicly admit the Party was in disarray and they accused Tapueluelu for causing chaos.

Many were behind Siaosi and Chairman Sika, while others supported Tapueluelu.

MP Siaosi Pōhiva’s response

When contacted about the letter Siaosi told  Kaniva News he was unmoved by what his brother-in-law had said about him because he had not done anything wrong.

In Tongan he said: “neongo aipe ha fa’ahinga tukuaki’i ta’efakapapau’i ‘oku fai mai kiate au fekau’aki moe issue ko eni ‘oku ou ongo’i nonga pe mo fiemalie ‘ihe mahino ki hoku ‘atamai mo hoku laumalie ‘oku ‘ikai keu fai ha me’a ‘oku hala.”

Siaosi said he did not believe the allegations his brother-in-law  had made against him and others could be resolved through media.

He said he had submitted his response to Chairman Sika.

MP Siaosi said his father had the political freedom and divine mission to free the poor and oppressed from the rule of the oppressors.

The Party supporters grow

‘Akilisi’s supporters have been growing and more than ever publicly active since his death.

However, there was great concern about the party’s future and there were some conspiracy theories about another new party being set up.

Some analysts believed the disarray among the Party’s core team and the movement’s supporters was just part of a struggle by its leadership to put things together after their great leader died.

Editor’s note:

Kaniva News has just received a number of livestreaming videos and responses from the PTOA Movement’s frontliners to Hon Tapueluelu’s allegations and his Party roles. One of those videos came from Dr Tu’i Uata, the former Minister of Trade and Economic Development. Because of the need to keep the length of our articles to our standard word length we will write more stories on this topic.