Tongans left wondering who will fill key portfolios

By Don Wiseman of and is republished with permission

It’s been weeks now since Tonga’s King Tupou VI let it be known that he wasn’t happy with the government assigningn two key Cabinet portfolios.

He never actually said but the Palace Office let it be known that the King felt these portfolios, foreign affairs and defence, should be held by the monarchy.

The Tongan government’s apppointees were the Prime Minister, Hu’akavameliku Siaosi Sovaleni, as the Defence Minister and Fekita ‘Utoikamanu, the only woman in Cabinet, as Foreign Minister.

In March, they resigned after pressure from the Palace Office but those roles have not yet been filled.

RNZ Pacific’s Don Wiseman asked our correspondent in Tonga, Kalafi Moala (KM), what is going on.

KM: There’s just complete silence. We, as media, have written in and called to try to get more information. And nothing from either the Palace Office or from the Prime Minister’s Office.

I think it’s just showing the real flaws in our system here, because we’ve been trying to be more democratic with the reform that took place in 2010. But as of now, there’s been a lot of struggles and a lot of things that are unexplained.

Tonga does not have a Minister of Defence, obviously, there must be people that are filling those roles, but it has not been revealed or told the public, there is just no accountability from our governance to the people. And that’s a real concern that we have here in Tonga right now.

DW: And the people, what do they think about it? Does it bother them?

KM: There’s a lot of complaints, a lot of questions. But this is how we handle fixing. It’s kind of odd, because we have the so called crisis between the Palace Office and the Prime Minister’s Office that led to the resignations. Then we’ve got those portfolios that are unfilled. As people are beginning the raise their voice, then we move on to another issue, and another issue. So the attention of the public, it’s been dragged on without answers to the questions that have been asked about the previous problems or previous issues.

It’s interesting, I think, that there was a press conference that was held by the Prime Minister couple of weeks ago. And he was asked directly what took place in his audience with the King. And it is interesting the answer of the Prime Minister, he actually said that it was a private conversation between two people, and he doesn’t have the freedom to reveal what was discussed in those private conversations.

The interesting thing is the reaction from the public was that, hey, you are not actually private people. Here is the head of state having a conversation on policy, on issues, with the Prime Minister of the country, and it’s called a private conversation. And so there are a lot of unanswered questions, but it’s where the public is being reacting to.

DW: Now Tonga has a pretty important year coming up. It is hosting the Pacific Islands Forum summit quite soon, and needs to get this sorted quickly, doesn’t it?

KM: It really does. And the Pacific Island Forum comes in in August. there are a lot of constructions concerning accommodation and meeting places that are ongoing right now, to try and have it completed by August. If this thing is on top of that, it’s gonna be a big issue.

The other thing to remember next year 2025, that’s an election year for Tonga. So there are a lot of noises that are being heard here and there, of people preparing for the election year and it’s gonna be a very significant time.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news