8 Mar 2017

Tongan PM not worried about cabinet inexperience

7:52 am on 8 March 2017

Tonga's Prime Minister says he believes his re-jigged Cabinet has the expertise to govern the country effectively.

Over the weekend 'Akilisi Pohiva asked his finance minister 'Aisake Eke to resign because he abstained from last week's no-confidence vote.

2015 Tonga finance minister 'Aisake Eke

Finance Minister 'Aisake Eke. Photo: UN / youtube

Mr Pohiva ended up defeating the vote 14-10.

Dr Eke held the finance portfolio in two consecutive governments and served as Secretary of Finance for a number of years prior to his cabinet appointment.

Revenue Minister, and first time MP, Tevita Lavemaau will replace Dr Eke while Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa swaps his Police portfolio for Mr Lavemaau's former ministry.

Tongatapu MP, and another first-timer, Mateni Tapueluelu, who is the son-in-law of Mr Pohiva, enters cabinet as the new Police Minister.

The King will have to approve the appointments before they are officially made.

The Prime Minister said he has confidence in his cabinet line-up, but admitted the loss of Dr Eke's experience and nous would be a blow to the government.

"Of course yes, but at the same time we have quite a number of well-qualified people to replace him. Of course it is a loss for government but the question is do we have enough qualified senior servants to do the same job? The answer is yes."

'Aisake Eke is the third cabinet minister to lose his position in the Pohiva government, which has been in power for just over two years.

Earlier 'Etuate Lavulavu lost his Infrastructure and Works portfolio and seat after he was found guilty of bribery charges in court and Fe'ao Vakata was sacked as Internal Affairs and Sports Minister over misconduct allegations.

Finance Minister 'had to go'

Mr Pohiva said Dr Eke needed to leave because they weren't seeing eye to eye.

"Because he is an Independent [MP] he argued that he has every right to do whatever he wants to do as an Independent, but as a member of Cabinet I think he has to comply with all Cabinet collective decisions."

Tongan Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva.

Tongan Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva. Photo: RNZI/Alex Perrottet

The Prime Minister said Dr Eke told him there were two reasons why he abstained from last week's vote.

"He said I ignored or undermined law pertaining to certain actions I have done, but he did not specifically mention what laws."

Dr Eke also disagreed with the Prime Minister's handling and ongoing battles with the 2019 Pacific Games Organising Committee, Mr Pohiva said.

Last year the Supreme Court reinstated the CEO of the Committee, Lord Sevele, after Mr Pohiva had earlier moved to sack him.