Tonga's finance minister sacked after defying order to quit | Pacific Beat

Tonga's finance minister sacked after defying order to quit

Tonga's finance minister sacked after defying order to quit

Updated 9 January 2014, 18:32 AEDT

Tonga's Finance minister Lisiate Akolo has been formally dismissed after resisting pressure from the prime minister to resign.

The move was confirmed by Tonga's Justice Minister Clive Edwards after days of uncertainty.

Presenter: Tom Fayle

Speaker: Clive Edwards, Tonga's Minister of Justice

EDWARDS: He was invited to submit his resignation by the 8th of January. He has refused to put in his resignation, so a notice has gone out today terminating his warrant. And the Prime Minister is acting until he makes a substantive appointment.
FAYLE: So let me just clarify that Mr Akolo has officially been sacked?
EDWARDS: Yes you can say he's been officially sacked because he has refused to submit a resignation.
FAYLE: And why was that?
EDWARDS: Well I think you'd better ask Akolo why he's refused to submit his resignation, because the Prime Minister had asked him as is his prerogative to appoint and remove ministers that he should resign because I don't think he's following the decisions of cabinet. And there's a difference between the Prime Minister and Akolo, and I believe that the Prime Minister is in order in asking Akolo to resign.
FAYLE: Now you were at yesterday's cabinet meeting when the fate of Mr Akolo was discussed?
EDWARDS: No the cabinet meeting yesterday was to allow the ministers to express their views and for the Prime Minister to hear what they've got to say on the letter inviting Mr Akolo to resign. It wasn't an open cabinet meeting for Akolo to attend, but because some ministers may have views as to Akolo's position and they were afforded that opportunity to have their say.
FAYLE: But was it fair to prevent Mr Akolo from attending that meeting to defend his position?
EDWARDS: Well that's for Akolo to submit to the Prime Minister, not to cabinet. And he had chosen not to say anything or write anything to the Prime Minister. He had the opportunity to say to the Prime Minister that the allegations against him are not correct and he would like to have an interview with him or discussion with him, but he did nothing. 
FAYLE: So did the Prime Minister get unanimous support for his move to get rid of the Finance Minister at yesterday's cabinet meeting?
EDWARDS: At the end, yes.
FAYLE: At the end?
EDWARDS: At the end because there were a couple of people who asked for mercy to give him another chance.
FAYLE: But the Prime Minister was insistent that his views prevail?
EDWARDS: The Prime Minister just listened right through while the ministers spoke, and the general view was no.
FAYLE: So exactly why was Mr Akolo removed from office?
EDWARDS: Well look this is not the first time that Akolo has done this to the Prime Minister, and I don't want to go back on it but on this occasion he was present in cabinet, he was a party to a cabinet decision and he goes on the air and television and say the government has no money to pay out this cabinet decision, and it's not reasonable, it's not a reasonable decision when he was a party to it and it was his recommendation. 
FAYLE: So at the heart of it it's a matter of cabinet solidarity?
EDWARDS: Yes,  why didn't he oppose it because we had received the submissions and recommendations from the public service commission recommending a 20 per cent increase of salary for public servants. Akolo as Minister of Finance had asked on a previous occasion when we first received this to give him time and the Ministry of Finance to work it out. So they were given that time and they came back with four different options; 20 per cent, 15 per cent, 10 per cent and 5 per cent and what's affordable to government. And they recommended 5 per cent. And that's what cabinet did, and then he goes on the air and says it's unreasonable.
FAYLE: But you say he supported that lower position?
EDWARDS: Yes he did and that was his recommendation.
FAYLE: And finally Mr Akolo has a reputation as something of a financial conservative who doesn't want to see Tonga overwhelmed by debt repayments. Will his departure damage Tonga's reputation among the donor community?
EDWARDS: Well why didn't Akolo say that to us in cabinet? And he goes and says that now. Why does he do that? This is the thing, this is not the first time he's done it.


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