Turmoil in Tonga over 'two-faced' McCully comment

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 08:51 03/02/2012
Murray McCully
'TWO-FACED': Tonga's parliament has been in uproar this week as it tries to sack the kingdom's auditor general for describing New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully as two-faced.

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Tonga's parliament has been in uproar this week as it tries to sack the kingdom's auditor general for describing New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully as two-faced.

A special session of the assembly is considering a motion to dismiss Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa on three counts of professional misconduct.

The motion, moved by Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano, followed allegations by Tu'i'onetoa that $212,196.40 of aid money provided by New Zealand and Australia could not be accounted for.

The prime minister claims the auditor general had insulted the New Zealand government when he told TVNZ that McCully was "two-faced" over the issue.

According to news website Matangi Tonga the special session effectively put the auditor general on trial by parliament.

"The fact that the Tongan Parliament is putting the auditor general on trial is complicated by the fact that the house is the judge, the prosecutor and also the plaintiff," Matangi Tonga says.

A difficulty is that for a trial, the auditor general should be able to call witnesses and to defend himself, but the auditor general can only do that in committees, but not in the house.

The motions claim that by insulting the New Zealand government the auditor general damaged the diplomatic relations between Tonga and New Zealand.

The auditor general made the comment after McCully stated that an independent audit report found no fraud in New Zealand's financial contribution to Tonga's political reform, and that any irregularities were due to accounting errors.

Tu'i'onetoa said in his written defence that he denied that he had ever spoken to the TVNZ, but he admitted to have spoken to one Setita Finau and a companion.

Finau was a former student of his who worked closely with the Tongan community in New Zealand.

He said that he later discovered that Finau worked for television news, Matangi Tonga says

He said that his discussion with Finau was in Tongan and the question that Finau was particularly interested in was the "missing" amount of $212,196.40, and that if government was using it for something else other than the Political Reform Program, what was it?

He also stated in his response that he had received a letter from Australian and the New Zealand High Commissions in Tonga requesting that the remaining funds were to be returned, 55.6 percent to Australia and 44.4 percent to New Zealand.

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The assembly is continuing to debate the issue.

- Stuff

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