King emphasises concerns over ‘secrecy’ surrounding Lulutai airlines operation; warns Parliament over increasing drug offences

King Tupou VI has repeated his concerns over the government’s involvement in the operation of the  Lulutai airlines.

King Tupou VI

The King made the comments during his speech this morning to mark the soft closing session of Parliament.

The strong language from the throne over the government’s roles in the controversial airlines used the word “fakapulipuli”, which translates as secrecy, and comes in the wake of Auditor General, Sefita Tangi, recently revealing the government had failed to submit a “share certificate” which should show who own the airline.

Kaniva News recently asked the Prime Minister whether his government had issued a share certificate or not and we are awaiting a response.  

His Majesty and the Auditor General joined forces in echoing previous accusations by  Opposition MPs that the Prime Minister had made decisions over Lulutai airlines in “secrecy”.  

That accusation was part of 46 allegations mentioned in the Prime Minister’s  confidence vote, which had included claims that the Prime Minister had failed to submit any financial statements for the Lulutai airlines to Parliament.

His Majesty also emphasised the democratic mechanism of transparency and warned that it was the responsibility of the MPs to be responsible and accountable to the people who voted for them.

He said it was the responsibility of Parliament to check and balance out the government’s services and businesses and make sure tax money was used wisely and transparently.

“Was the money well spent? Has it been useful for the people of the country?” the King asked.

The King also repeated the concerns he originally raised while chastising Parliament and the government four years ago. On that occasion he warned that it was imprudent for the government to take part in private business.

“Why is the government operating the airlines in secrecy?” the King asked in Tongan.

He also questioned why the government did not invite qualified people in the aviation industry to operate the airlines services. 

The King then reminded Parliament that the government had failed to fund the former airlines company, although  he did not say it directly. It appeared he was talking about the Real Tonga airlines about which he approached the former government for more funding to help it survive during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the government ditched Real Tonga and set up its new Lulutai airline in 2020.

The king was also concerned by what he said was Parliament taking the drug offenses lightly. He suggested considering the heaviest penalty to alleviate the increasing number of young people suffered from the harmful consequences of drug use and addiction.

The King also questioned the roles and services of the Anti-corruption Commission and the Ombudsman.

New Zealand barrister and mediator James Christopher LaHatte has been appointed as Tonga’s first Anti-Corruption Commissioner and was expected to take up his four-year posting on 1 July.

“Are the services of the Anti-corruption Commission and the Ombudsman working? Are they being in good use and available for every citizen?” the King asked.

The King’s speech was written in a letter and was read out by Lord Tangi ‘O Vaonukonuka this morning.  Parliament is expected to return to duty in few weeks’ time to start deliberating the new budget.

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