Minpacalumni's Weblog

Weblog for former staff of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs in New Zealand

Commoner MPs’ views key to choosing new Tongan PM

Posted by Sai Lealea on November 27, 2010

King George Tupou V

by Audrey Young – NZ Herald – 27 November 2010


Democracy leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva,  left picture, will sit down with the handful of people’s representatives not aligned with the democracy movement in Tonga to talk about leadership of the new Government.

And Mr Pohiva indicated yesterday that the new Prime Minister might not necessarily be himself.

Asked by the Weekend Herald if he was ready to be Prime Minister, he said: “Whoever is selected to be Prime Minister, he is ready.”

Mr Pohiva’s deputy, Dr Sitiveni Halapua, pictured above right, is considered a possibility to become Tonga’s first democratically elected Prime Minister.

He has recently returned from a post at the East-West Centre in Hawaii and is an academic with a bent for conflict resolution.

He brokered the agreement that settled the 2005 public service strike which, according to website Matangi Tonga, included an agreement to look at political reforms.

Dr Halapua won the electorate of Tongatapu 3, where long-serving MP and former Police Minister Clive Edwards also stood, unsuccessfully. It is thought that Dr Halapua would be the preference of the nobles.

There are now 17 people’s representatives and nine nobles’ representatives and while party affiliations are not recognised in the system, Mr Pohiva believes his people have won 13 of the 17 people’s seats.

Yesterday, Mr Pohiva and close advisers met for several hours in his party’s downtown offices, planning an agenda for today’s meetings.

The prospect of being beaten by the nobles in a race to form the Government was halted by King George Tupou V, who is thought to have not only ordered his brother out of the nobles’ contest but also insisted the nobles allow a people’s representative to be the first Prime Minister elected by the Parliament.

Meanwhile, National MP John Hayes, leader of the New Zealand observer delegation, said there had been some talk of a parliament of national unity.

“We have a confrontational style of democracy. It doesn’t need to be confrontational everywhere,” said Mr Hayes, a former High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea.

It could involve a commoners’ Prime Minister and nobles’ deputy prime minister or whatever the new MPs decided.

“I think you’ve got to see the political leaders as chiefs who are going to elect a paramount chief in Tongan terms when Parliament resumes.”

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