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'Ball is in PM’s court': Tonga's former attorney general says communication is key

Alakihihifo Vailala

Tongan legal expert says a royal audience with King Tupou VI and the PM could resolve the latest political stand-off.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

A former Attorney General of Tonga says there’s still a chance to resolve matters between the two main authorities in Tonga.

‘Aminiasi Kefu was the acting Attorney General of Tonga from 2014 to 2019.

His comments follow King Tupou VI’s recent withdrawal of confidence in the appointment of Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku as Defence Minister and Fekitamoeloa 'Utoikamanu as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism.

Speaking on 531pi Pacific Mornings, Kefu says, “at the moment, there’s still an opportunity to resolve these current issues between the two main authorities in some constitutional and political framework.”

Watch ‘Aminiasi Kefu's full interview below:

Hu’akavameiliku has recently returned to the Kingdom after being in New Zealand for almost a month, he’s also been absent from the Legislative Assembly for over three months.

“The ball is now in the Prime Minister’s court to decide what to do," Kefu says.

"Because the process of revocation has to start with the Prime Minister.”

The King’s withdrawal of confidence and consent was labeled as unconstitutional by the Tongan government as the reassigning ministerial portfolios are based on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

This is due to the 2010 constitutional reforms in Tonga where the late Majesty, King George V consented to having his powers lessened and therefore giving more control to the government.

Hu’akavameiliku has since reiterated his confidence in ‘Utoikamanu as the Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister but no word about his role as Defence Minister.

Kefu says it's important for the King and Prime Minister to talk through these issues in-person.

“The government’s perspective is that they are awaiting an opportunity where the Prime Minister can have a royal audience with his Majesty, where they will discuss this issue and then hopefully come to a mutual understanding and a way forward.”

Moving forward, Kefu says communication to understand all sides is important to avoid situations such as 2017 when the King dissolved Parliament and new elections were needed.

“Democracy in Tonga is a hybrid of democracy and monarchy and since 2010, we have been sorting our ways on trying to make these two main concepts work together.

“We’re still going through a process with our type of democracy which is a balance of modern democracy, the Westminster system but also our cultural and monarchical system where there is a respect to his Majesty and his Majesty’s wishes.”

Hero image: King Tupou VI receives Tonga's new Prime Minister Hu'akavameiliku, following Tonga's November 18 general election. Photo/ Pesi Fonua / Matangi Tonga Online

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