Tonga's government - labelled corrupt and dishonest by opposition politicians - could fall in a vote of no confidence.
A motion was filed for a vote of no confidence 18 months after the country’s first democratic elections in November 2010. Lord Tu’ivakano has filed a reply, but discussions have been delayed.
Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano admitted the country’s new democratic process needed a touch-up, but said the accusations were baseless.
`‘A vote of no confidence is a good thing, but at the same time you should be using it when there is a real problem, not use it because you have a constitutional right,’’ he said.
‘‘I think it’s really unfair, especially when you have just started a democratic government. For any government to come in and for the people to give them one year, I think it’s impossible for them to expect the unexpected.’’
He said the opposition was arguing that he was ‘‘unreliable’’ because he had a reshuffle. ‘‘I have the power to do that. Every government can do that.’’
However, the leader of Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands, Akilisi Pohiva, said the government had misused funds and was not doing its job.
‘‘The rule of law, it talks about good governance, accountability and transparency. We have proof that they don’t follow that,’’ he said.
Discussions on the prime minister’s reply will resume today after parliament yesterday took a day off because of New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully’s visit and last week the former parliamentary speaker, Lord Lasike, was last week barred because of a criminal conviction.
Both parties believe they have the numbers, but if the vote comes close, the speaker has the deciding vote.
‘‘The other thing they are saying is that I’m not elected by the people. But I’m a representative of the nobles and the nobles sit in parliament. It’s the Parliament that has to elect the prime minster,’’ Lord Tu’ivakano said.
‘‘We all agreed that when we changed the constitution. Now, they are saying I’m not entitled to be prime minister.’’
Lord Tu’ivakano said the Crown Law Office and Parliament Law Committee were studying the rules around votes of no confidence because they were unclear.
‘‘Confidence vote is a new thing. There is no standing order for vote of confidence. So legally, the people need to look at it very carefully.’’
He said Tonga’s new system was still rusty and needed work.
‘‘When you have this system, it’s really hard to get the calibre of people that you actually want on a portfolio,’’ he said.
‘‘In the past, the king appointed the prime minister and the ministers and you got qualified people.
‘‘It will take time, we still need to do a lot of work. Hopefully, it doesn’t deter people who want to come into politics.
‘‘We want good people who want to run the country,’’ he said.
Mr McCully was in Tonga as part of a five-day trip to the Pacific.
He had dinner with Lord Tu’ivakano and they had ‘‘open discussions’’ about the vote of no confidence on the floor, but he refused comment on the ‘‘operations of governments of other countries’’.
Tonga's elections followed a major public service strike in 2005 and riots that left eight people dead and much of downtown Nuku’alofa destroyed by fire in 2006.
The legislature compromised of 17 representatives elected every four years on a first-past-the-post system and nine noble representatives elected by the holders of 33 noble titles.
The speaker was selected from among the noble representatives.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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