Halapua back in Tongan politics


SITIVENI HALAPUA: I think after the King dissolved the House and I listened to the debates, particularly among the Tongans, in Tongan , I realised there is still a lack of understanding of the change that took place in 2010 and especially the implementation of the change itself. And I believe that this is an area where I can made a contribution,  particularly at this election and hopefully that can help ensure the stability of the country, which is badly needed for development and uplifting of people’s standard of living.

DON WISEMAN: So if we can just recap then. When the King dissolved parliament and there had been this talk of the government acting unconstitutionally, was it?

ST: The constitution is silent on any requirement for the King to explain the reasons behind the dissolving of the parliament. What we have already is the advice, or supposedly the advice given by the Speaker to the King, and of course with regard to the signing of a foreign treaty and agreement that was unconstitutional, that was only part of which, I think [there were four reasons] other reasons that I don’t want to go through, but the actual debate itself. It is not so much decision made by the King, it is the debate about the power of the King, about the decisions, about the parliament, and the relationship of the parliament and the King and especially the relationship between the government and the King. Really to me it reveals the lack of understanding and in some areas, what really concerned me, was the misinformation that seems to prevail in Tonga, in the society as well. And I thought that’s an area that needs to be clearly clarified and articulated when the parliament and the government is re-established after this election. And I really believe that the country needs it and I also believe that that’s an area when I can make a contribution if my campaign is successful.

DW: You were a high polling winner in that first election back in 2010. You were a member of the Democratic Party. Are you back with ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s party?

ST: No I am not. I m running as an independent. I am not a member of any party, but as you know when we talk about political parties in Tonga it is very very different from that in New Zealand or elsewhere because there is no law at all governing any party, or a party in Tonga. A party operates as a group of people who get together and promote themselves and help each other in the election, but in terms of functioning, based on some political platform or policies, that is non-existent. And that is why I think I prefer to run as an independent. But when I first ran as a member of that group, the Democratic group, I saw that we might end up forming a political party and passing legislation. But that did not happen – they did not agree with my views. But that is OK – that is their decision. But we still don’t have a legitimate political party in Tonga, other than a group of people. And that is the reason why I think I can be more effective working as an independent if I am elected to parliament.     

DW: One of the areas in which you had reached disagreement going into the election in 2014 was your desire to have a collegial style of government with all the parliamentarians working together rather an adversarial type as exists at the moment,and is more common in the larger Westminster oriented parliaments. So this idea of a collegial style of government, is that still something that you feel strongly is what Tonga needs?

SH: Yeah. I think that is the main reason why I am running as an independent, so that you can look at different views and perspectives of representatives, out of which you can form a more general platform to try to run the government as well as operate within parliament, because right now that does not really exist. A government is formed on the basis of personalities. You like people that belong to your group and stuff like that but there is no real debate or discussion about the policies or ideas that are important for the country. Well, it is mentioned here and there, but it is very difficult to form any basis for working together. So I really believe in that. Because here in Tonga people tend to oppose anything. It is very popular here to oppose anyone who is in authority or critcise anybody else, but to try to form a collective opinion, it is very difficult. It doesn’t really exist and I think it is partly because we don’t have a legitimate political party system, which can help to formulate the platform or general idea for the direction for the country. But that is something that I believe can be done here in Tonga. Someone can lead and put together ideas which can become a basis for policy and strategy. We still have a long way to go, but to me, that’s the way to start formulating a clear direction for the work of government and parliament, especially to try to uplift the wellbeing of the people.