16 May 2012

Tonga talk of associate ministers goes against constitution

2:57 pm on 16 May 2012

A Tongan cabinet minister is advocating the creation of associate ministers and offering positions to opposition MPs to weaken their Democratic Party before an expected vote of no confidence in early July.

In a letter to the prime minister, Lisiate 'Akolo also made recommendations for the latest cabinet reshuffle which appear to have been adopted by the prime minister, Lord Tu'ivakano.

He told Lord Tu'ivakano he could do better than Sunia Fili as finance minister and he got the job.

He also successfully pushed for the deputy prime minister, Samiu Vaipulu, to be reassigned because Mr 'Akolo claimed he created the public impression he was single-handlely running the government.

But as our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, says Mr 'Akolo's push for associate minister positions is not allowed under the constitution.

"It is something however that they have talked about but it is not being facilitated by law. But clearly one of the aims in the letter is to dismantle or weaken Akilisi's party [Akilisi Pohiva of the Friendly Islands Democratic Party] with the upcoming vote of no confidence."