Prime Minister tells his story and calls for leaders to be raised

ORGANISERS of the Regional Pacific Green Growth meeting sponsored by IUCN• asked Tonga’s Prime Minister, Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva to give the keynote address in their 3rdannual summit at Yatule Resort, Sigatoka on Wednesday 6 May.

The keynote address which was focused on the “The Journey and the Era for Democracy in Tonga” was inspiring and gave encouragement to those who were there from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and Vanuatu.

Using a power point presentation of photos, Prime Minister Pohiva reflected on a story far too familiar with him, yet many have only heard it in bits and pieces of news coverage over a period of 30 years.

He told the group of Pacific leaders: “You have kindly honoured me with an opportunity to reflect on my journey, my vision and the challenges and aspirations. Can I start by saying that my journey was, of necessity, a very public affair… and therefore the high-lights and the low-lights are already in the public arena.”

Prime Minister Pohiva proceeded to tell his story starting off with the paper drafted by Dr Langi Kavaliku and presented to the Privy Council in 1975 in which he discussed the need for Tonga to move toward democracy.

“The ideas outlined in that paper became part of the thinking that contributed o my vision for reform, the aspirations, and journey. There were some of us who were students at USP in 1978, who wanted to implement these ideas in Tonga,” he said.

The Prime Minister told of how the Government of the day cancelled his radio program – Matalafolaukai–after four years on air, and then in 1985 dismissed him from his job as an education officer.

“I sued Government for wrongful dismissal and won,” he told the participants.

Chief Justice Geoffrey Martin in his Judgment (1988) said: “The reality of the situation is that, Mr. Pohiva was dismissed because he was a thorn in the side of government… the circumstance of Mr. Pohiva’s dismissal encompass all three elements – it was oppressive, arbitrary and unconstitutional.”

The launching of the Kele’a newsletter in 1986 revealed information of excessive pay to Parliamentarians, and the biggest story of the decade, Tonga’s illegal sale of Tongan citizenship and passports.

While legal action was going through the courts against the illegal sale of passports, the Government decided to hold a special Parliamentary session in 1991 in which the Constitution was amended so that 426 illegal passport holders were made legal.

People marched to express their objection toward this act of Parliament.

The Prime Minister was first elected to Parliament in 1987, and has been a Member of Parliament over the past 28 years, winning consecutively 9 elections, the last being in November 2014.

People’s Representative Pohiva went on to become Prime Minister in what is being touted as the first Government of the people, because Hon. Pohiva was the first Prime Minister elected by the people. And with the exception of one noble representative, all the other Cabinet Ministers are People’s Representative.

Prime Minister Pohiva told of how after 30 years of campaigning for democratic reform, His Late Majesty King George V, agreed to cede his executive power to Parliament, and a reformed electoral system was set up for the 2010 election in which Tonga’s system became more democratic.

At the conclusion of his address, Prime Minister Pohiva urged the participants at the Green Growth meeting to seek for ways to produce good leadership in the region.

“It is in good leadership, carrying out the principles of good governance, transparency, and accountability that will allow us to move forward,” he said.”

• IUCN – International Union for the Conservation of Nature

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