(On February 9, 2021 this article was published on the Fangongo Media Watch website. It is hereby published on Talanoa ‘o Tonga. Three months on, nothing much has changed!)
Nuku’alofa, Tonga: A dead man is still the biggest influence in Tonga’s politics. He is the center of the political dialogue in this politically super-charged island kingdom. Even though dead for almost a year and a half, ‘Akilisi Pohiva for better or for worse, is still the biggest influence in the political affairs of a country divided either against him or for him.
The current government led by Rev. Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa can hardly issue a statement or make a public interview without reference to him. In the end, ‘Akilisi Pohiva occupies the full throttle of their monologue.
As a journalist, I often try and listen in to some of the dialogue and interviews conducted by the government to keep myself updated. Most of the dialogue (between the interviewee and the interviewer) is horribly predictable.
There is nothing new to talk about. Most of the “conversation” if you can call it that, is based on what ‘Akilisi Pohiva said or did not say, what he did or did not do, and how he has “hurt this country forever.”
When you do not have something worthwhile to talk about, you usually talk about nothing!
In a recent interview of Prime Minister Tu’ionetoa by one of his top flatterers, Katalina Tohi of Broadcom Radio 87.5, the Prime Minister keeps referring to “the previous Prime Minister,” comparing himself with him.
Most interviewers do not ask questions, at least not hard questions. They just sit there and let him talk like a kid, mostly about himself and how great he is.
“’Akilisi made promises and did not do it, but I did not make any promises that I did not carry out,” he keeps repeating. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, a dead man, whose ghost is kept alive by the current Prime Minister and his supporters, unfortunately could not answer their accusations from the grave.
It can be stated, however, that Prime Minister Tu’ionetoa has never been humble enough to admit, that without ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s support, he would never have made it in the 2014 election. He became a PTOA candidate to be elected as a Tongatapu 10 representative.
He is in Parliament today because of ‘Akilisi Pohiva and PTOA. But that is a fact he does not want to admit, as he is filled with the delusion that “he is here because of his own merits and political capability.”
Dead men don’t talk
Mr. Tu’i’onetoa’s chief advisor and apologist, Etuate Lavulavu had proposed in an earlier radio interview that maybe ‘Akilisi needs to be prosecuted because he has done so many wrong things, even now that he is dead.
The People’s Party (PAK) controlled by Mr. Tu’i’onetoa and his off sider seem to be running out of campaign conversation options. Lavulavu, who has made himself indispensable to the Prime Minister is constantly on radio blaming ‘Akilisi Pohiva for any problems the government is encountering.
The public is listening to nothing new, let alone creative, but it’s the same old regurgitation of hate speech about a dead man, but whose influence on Tonga’s politics is unequal to anything over the last three decades.
Rev. Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa has been trying hard over the past year and a half since he crossed the floor to become Prime Minister, to foster for himself a personality cult following. As a religious minister, he comes across as more worthy of praise than God Himself; yet the evidence of his moral abuses is so incredibly shameful.
Having a PhD on Biblical Studies, he comes across as an intellectual that “knows it all” yet he often opens his mouth speaking so childishly, and his intellectual insecurity makes him often boasts of his questionable achievements.
Narcissistic? Maybe or maybe not! But self-obsession can define the character of a leader whose attention is more concerned with a dead man than with the issues and needs of a society that had put much hope in him.
The childish and unfounded boasting
What with the pronouncements of the “most expansive infrastructural works to be carried out in Tonga ever, road works and housing for the poor”?
What with the expensive and controversial prayer and fasting tours? And what with the boastful declaration that the reason Tonga is COVID-free is because of “his prayer and fasting” initiative?
You hardly hear the name of Jesus be given praise for anything deserving of public commendation. It is always “me and my government.” The self-promotion and praise coming from this Prime Minister almost daily is nauseating, people are turned off.
Everything this Prime Minister and this government do is in campaign mode. Therefore, there are so much celebration events going on each week – the dedication or blessings of policies (when did we start dedicating policies?), the dedication of programs, the dedication, and blessings of anything newly built, including the dedication of a toilet. Any excuse for a dedication or a celebration that can be shown on TV or live on Facebook.
From critical thinkers to uncritical flatterers
Apart from a few media platforms, almost all the entire broadcast media in Tonga shy away from making any critical commentary on this government, despite the many violations of moral principles and legalities. This explains the incredibly lucrative communications budget of the Prime Minister’s office.
Journalists who should know better have turned from critical thinkers to uncritical flatterers, from service providers to suckers!
It is amazing that whenever it comes to political matters, media keeps reciting the same rhetoric of government, blaming a dead man for all the ills brought in by this government. And it is an effective strategy because the dead man is not around to answer the charges.
As for the supporters or the pretenders that call themselves PTOA, they are so busy fighting among themselves for power they have ceased to be an effective opposition force. Even with nine people’s representatives in Parliament, PTOA is a paper tiger that has ignored what ‘Akilisi stood for in fighting corruption, and now wants the power that will evade them again.
The PTOA MPs cannot even make up their minds what is their purpose. Much of their talk about “the vision” is a dead man’s vision. They cannot move on because they lack the leadership and the unselfish moral character that is required of strong leadership.
There are about five PTOA groups that exist in four different countries including Tonga, with their own leaders and declared purposes, competing, and fighting among themselves to see who is “closest to the vision and mission” of the dead man.
PTOA is a mess, but the alternative PAK that is in government is even worse! The medicine for cure is worse than the illness. A wonderful country with an incredibly wonderful history is being totally screwed by a government more preoccupied with itself than the people it is supposed to serve.
We need change, but we will not be able to change until we leave the dead where they are – in the grave. The living must move on. The living must make wise decisions. The living must above all things put God first, and know that with Him, He puts the welfare of people first.