14 Dec 2020

Tonga Deputy PM resigns amidst no confidence motion

5:46 pm on 14 December 2020

Tonga's Deputy Prime Minister, Sione Vuna Fa'otusia, has resigned after signing a motion of no confidence in the country's prime minister.

Vuna Fa'otusia

Vuna Fa'otusia Photo: Kaniva Tonga / Kalino Lātū

The resignation adds to the pressure faced by Prime Minister Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa, who is likely to face a motion of no confidence when parliament next sits.

Fa'otusia is one of 10 people who signed a letter calling for a motion against the prime minister.

That letter, tabled last week, outlines seven allegations against Tu'i'onetoa, mostly around government spending.

If a vote is held when the 26 seat parliament next sits on 12 January, supporters of the move may only need the support of 13 MPs with at least one representative overseas and unable to vote.

One of the nine Noble MPs in the House said last week's motion was historic and unique.

Lord Ma'afu, who is the Minister for Lands and His Majesty's Armed Forces, said he had never known a deputy to move against his prime minister in such a way.

Ma'afu said the motion was a surprise and more would be known about how the situation would develop in the new year.

When asked how the nine noble MPs would respond, Ma'afu said the group, who represent 34 hereditary title holders, were duty-bound to His Majesty the King and his wishes.

Prime Minister of Tonga, Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa.

Prime Minister of Tonga, Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa. Photo: Government of Tonga

Motion about 2021 election - academic

Meanwhile a Tongan political scientist thinks the motion against Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa, may be more about campaigning for the 2021 election.

The motion was submitted by Semisi Sika, who is the leader of the MPs who remain part of the so-called democratic party grouping.

Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, who is based in Auckland, said it was intriguing that they were trying to remove a government when Tonga was due to go to the polls in November next year.

He said the opposition may well have this in mind and could be using the motion to get noticed.

"It could be that they feel that they are becoming - this is the so-called opposition in parliament - perhaps that they are becoming invisible to the electorate, so it's a build up to the election, but in terms of the timing of it, it doesn't make sense to have this 10 months out from the election."

Massey University's Dr Malakai Koloamatangi

Massey University's Dr Malakai Koloamatangi Photo: Massey University