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Tonga PM and Games committee still at odds

Wednesday 1 June 2016 | Published in Regional

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TONGA – A battle between the Tongan Prime Minister and one of his predecessors is again threatening to derail Tonga’s plans to host the 2019 Pacific Games.

The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement saying a government authority, chaired by ‘Akilisi Pohiva, had sacked Lord Sevele as CEO and chair

of the local organising committee.

But Lord Sevele and the

regional Pacific Games Council say Prime Minister Pohiva doesn’t have the right to make such a move with the Council previously warning the government not to interfere or the Games could be removed.

Lord Sevele told Radio New Zealand’s Dateline Pacific Pohiva has been calling for his removal since December.

“They just keep changing the reasons from month to month. It’s a pity that has got to this stage,” Sevele said.

“I was appointed, with the support of the previous government, I was appointed by the Organising Committee which is the appointed authority under the Act and we’ve been working according to the duties given to us by law.”

DATELINE PACIFIC: Has this got down to personalities, it’s become personal, rather than for the good of the Games?

“The Games are Tonga’s, not any government’s or any organisation’s. All the parties to making the Games happen should all work together and we have been doing that well. It was only when the Prime Minister took over the chairmanship of the Auditing Authority Committee earlier this year that things changed for the worse.

“It is a pity. This is an opportunity for Tonga to get new facilities. The last facilities that were built was under the 1989 Games.”

DATELINE PACIFIC: The government also says that their Facilities Committee has taken over the majority of your responsibilities.

“That is an incorrect reading of the situation and it is a pity that there just seems to be no clarity in the thinking part of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Prime Minister.

“I mean, a few weeks ago when this came out publicly again, the Minister for Sports expressed his support for me and the work we were doing.”

DATELINE PACIFIC: The Pacific Games Council came out that the government shouldn’t interfere that Tonga could be in danger of losing its hosting rights, is that still in danger do you think?

“It’s like any Organising Committee of any Games, be it the Commonwealth or the Olympics or the Pacific Games, the Organising Committee is free from political interference or political decisions.

“They’ve got to take note of the situation but governments come and go but the Games have got to be put on. Games have got to be properly prepared for and conducted.

“Basically the Act is drawn up in such a way and the contract between the government of Tonga, the Tongan National Olympic Committee and the Pacific Games Council, that it protects the integrity of the process.

“One of the main provisions of the Olympic Charter or Constitution is that it is free from political interference.”

DATELINE PACIFIC: So how does Tonga move forward towards 2019?

“All I can say is that we were working well with the prime minister and the minister for sports up until the beginning of this year and everything was going smoothly, then he took over as chairman of the authority and things have started wobbling.”

DATELINE PACIFIC: I wouldn’t imagine though that the prime minister would step down from that committee, is it kind of a stalemate?

“As prime minister that’s the step he should take to allow us to regather the speed that we were operating on.”

- Dateline Pacific