May 15, 2021 Last Updated 6:06 PM, May 14, 2021

Pōhiva Tu‘i‘onetoa  is officially the prime minister of Tonga.

King Tupou VI signed the warrant appointing Tu‘i‘onetoa as prime minister in a swearing in ceremony at the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa Tuesday.

Tu’i’onetoa has outlined policy areas in which he revealed his People’s Party new slogan – “Counting two as one.”

In Tongan, “Lau e ua ko e taha”, means to regard two people with different views as one and treat them the same way.

He said this was a time for “reconciliation” and uniting the country which has been long-divided by political rivalries and dispute.

Tu’i’onetoa said his government would focus on sealing all public roads and filling roads to plantations and tax allotments with rocks. It's second priority is the e-government project.

He said last night a revocation process was underway to terminate some members of the ‘Akilisi Pōhiva’s cabinet ministers before the king would appoint the new cabinet ministers.

Tu’i’onetoa has confirmed his new cabinet lineup is as follows:

  1. Dr Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa – Prime Minister of Tonga, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Public Enterprises
  1. Sione Vuna Fā’otusia – Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Justice and Prison
  1. Tēvita Lavemaau – Minister of Finance, Minister of Customs and Revenue
  1. Siaosi Sovaleni – Minister of Education
  1. Dr. ‘Amelia Afuha’amango Tu’ipulotu – Minister of Health
  1. ‘Akosita Lavulavu – Minister of Infrastructure, Minister of Tourism
  1. Poasi Tei – Minister of MEIDECC
  1. Lord Nuku – Minister of Police
  1. Sāmiu Vaipulu – Minister of Trade and Economic Development
  1. Vātau Hui – Minister of Internal Affairs
  1. Lord Tu’ilakepa – Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
  1. Lord Ma’afu – Minister of His Majesty’s Armed Forces, Minister of Land and Survey and Natural Resources

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said: “Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa studied Accounting at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand (CA) in 1982. He received a Graduate Diploma in Financial Management from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia in 1993, and went on graduating with a Master of Business Accounting (MBA) from the same University in 1994. He received his Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA) from the Fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountant of New Zealand in 1999. He is a certified Management Accountant (CMA) from the Institute of Certified Management Accountants in Australia in 1997, and a receiver of a certificate of Civil Law from the University of the South Pacific. 

“The Hon. Tu’i’onetoa is a Doctor of Christian Ministry, from the Faith Evangelical Lutheran Seminary, Tacoma, Washington, USA since 2000.

“He first joined the Tonga Civil Service in January, 1979. He was the Official Liquidator at the Department of Justice, commercial Division in Hamilton, New Zealand. He served as Tonga’s Auditor General (AG) from 1983-2014, before he was first elected to parliament in the 2014 General Election as People’s Representative for Tongatapu Constituency No.10. He was a Private Secretary to His Majesty from 1987-1988, and also clerk to the Privy Council during the same period.

“In the Pohiva’s Government, Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa served as Minister for Labour, Commerce and Industries; Minister of Police, Prisons and Fire Services. He became Minister of Revenue and Customs up to September 2017, where he was later appointed as Minister of Finance and National Planning in January 2018. 

“He was a member and representative at the International Congresses of International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI); elected member of the Governing Board of INTOSAI for six years in 1992, and was reelected in 1998 for another six years until 2004. He attended the Conference of Commonwealth Auditors General, and the regional branch of INTOSAI the SPASAI. He was also Secretary General of SPASAI for 10 years from 1985-1994. He is currently one of the Governors of the World Bank – IMF.”

Farewell Palemia Pohiva

By Samisoni Pareti

Tonga today buried the man who dared 30 years ago to take on the might and mana of the Pacific's last surviving monarchy and got rewarded as the kingdom's first commoner to be elected prime minister. 

Elected prime minister not once, but twice.

Samuela 'Akilisi Pohiva was 78 when he succumbed to pneumonia at a hospital in Auckland on Thursday last week.

It ended 31 years of being a People's Representatives in the Tongan Legislature, a political career horned from years of fighting a monarchy that resisted political change.

He suffered imprisonment and numerous prosecutions during the 3 decade long campaign for democracy in Tonga.

Pohiva has been unwell for quite some time, reportedly from a kdney ailment.

Before he was airlifted to Auckland on Wednesday last week, he has been hospitalised for two weeks.

A large number of foreign dignatries flew to Tonga this week to say farewell to a Prime Minister who was first elected PM in 2014, and then again in 2018.

Representing the king was queen consort, Her Majesty Nanasipau'u Tuku'aho.

King Tupou VI was absent, reportedly travelling to the United States.

It is no state secret that the two were not close as the two clashed repeatedly and many times publicly when the king served as prime minister of Tonga in 2000 to 2006. prior to sweeping constitutional changes that wrestled the power to elect the prime minister from the king and gave it to elected members of the legislature.

Those changes were triggered by public protests that saw rioting and the burning of Nuku'alofa's CBD in 2006.

China paid for bulk of the reconstruction of Nuku'alofa through a loan that the Pohiva Government inherited and complainingly struggled to repay.  

All those concerns were set aside today as foreign dignatries flew in for the funeral. Among them were Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, high chief and deputy prime minister of Samoa, as well as Fiji's president Jioji Konrote.

They joined acting prime minister Semisi Sika and members of his Majesty's cabinet.

The New Zealand government had provided a jet of the Royal New Zealand Airforce to fly the body of he late prime minister to Nuku'alofa on Tuesday this week.

He laid in state inside the main St George Government Buildings in the centre of Nuku'alofa, not far from the Palace. China interestingly also paid for the construction of the complex.

Pohiva was accorded a full state funeral with school children sitting with heads bowed on both sides of the road that the funeral cortege used.

The funeral service was held at the Centenary Church in Saione before Pohiva was buried at the Telekava Cemetery.

When news of his passing spread like wildfire in mainstream and social media last week, Michael Field, a veteran New Zealand photojournalist who was working on an official biography of Pohiva released the following message he said was penned by the late Prime Minister on his deathbed in Auckland:

To the people of Tonga

It has been 32 years since you elected me as your representative,

And that became a sacred covenant for my existence

We established a vision

And I did everything possible to turn that vision into reality

No energy was spared

Thank you for giving me your trust

Your support

Your love

I have fulfilled my obligations to you

This is my final farewell

Tu’a ‘ofa atu!

- Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, 11 September 2019


Tonga's PM dies in Auckland

By Samantha Magick

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has passed away in Auckland.

Pohiva was flown to Auckland from Nuku’alofa late yesterday, after spending two weeks in hospital in Tonga with pneumonia but died this morning.

The 78-year old has been very ill for the past year and had been receiving treatment for liver disease.

Pohiva is a former history teacher who led Tonga’s pro-democracy movement. Though the efforts of Pohiva and other democracy campaigners, Tonga became a constitutional monarchy. He was first elected to parliament in 1987 and in 2014 became Prime Minister, the first commoner to be elected to the position. His decades in politics were tumultuous; he was imprisoned for contempt of parliament,  twice charged with sedition and in 2017, he and his entire cabinet was dismissed by King Tupou VI, only to be re-elected.

Just last month Prime Minister Pohiva attended what was to be his last Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu.

Tongan parliament has been indefinitely suspended reports Matangi Tonga.

Condolences from regional leaders have begun to pour in:

Vanuatu foreign minister Ralph Regenvanu: “My condolences for a good friend and principled leader. RIP Tongan PM 'Akilisi Pohiva dies, aged 78.”

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama: I mourn the passing of Tongan PM ʻAkilisi Pōhiva, who inspired the world with raw emotion at last month's Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu (which, despite his health, he attended in recognition of the urgency of climate action). We must honour his legacy by continuing this fight.

Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne: “Saddened to hear of the passing of Prime Minister of Tonga Akilisi Pohiva. He was a respected leader in the Pacific, and a good friend to Australia. My deepest condolences to his family and the people of the Kingdom of Tonga.”

New Zealand Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa: RIP & my sincerest condolences to Rt Hon ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s family as well as to the Kingdom of Tonga. Such a tremendous loss for all of us Tongans. ‘Ofa moe lotu mei Uelingatoni, Falealea ‘o Nu’usila.

By: Netani Rika 

A PETITION has been distributed in Tonga to have Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva impeached and dismissed.

Pohiva confirmed this at the opening of the 5th Pacific Media Summit in Nuku'alofa today.

He said political opponents were behind the move which was supported by some members of the media.

"I have no problem with that," Pohiva said.

"It is all part and parcel of democracy in the kingdom."

A fierce advocate for human rights and media freedom from the 1980 until his election, Pohiva has recently been under intense pressure.

Pohiva's appointment of his son in law and son to key positions and dismissal of journalists has come under criticism.

He has been accused of corruption and nepotism but survived an election after King Tupou VI dissolved parliament.

Pohiva confessed that as a journalist and advocate he had used the media to challenge the authorities and eventually become PM.

"I was critical of the government and now I'm getting a taste of my own medicine," Pohiva said.

"I have no problem with that."

Pohiva said journalists throughout the Pacific had a role to play in holding governments responsible to the electorate through strong reporting.

On recent dismissals of senior staff at the Tonga Broadcasting Corporation he said a review of the organisation was work in progress.

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