Get Ready, Set… and Hide!


Kalafi Moala

The criminal conviction and imprisonment of ‘Etuate and Akosita Lavulavu has open so many doors of significant revelation to human nature, at least to Tongan human nature.

Here is the biggest corruption case in Tonga’s recent history, yet Prime Minister Rev. Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa leads the rally defending the criminal couple, even questioning the decision of the Court.

Instead of coming out in support of the Supreme Court’s decision in convicting the couple, he went public ignoring the Courts decision and issued statements to the effect that “we have to wait until the end of the appeal process.” He was first to announce there would be an appeal, as the convicted couple held on to their innocent plea.

This is after they were proven guilty in court for obtaining fraudulently over $500,000 pa’anga by false pretenses. In his ruling, the judge said they could have also been charged with theft but they were not.

Never mind that the previous Prime Minister had dismissed Akosita Lavulavu from the Cabinet after her arrest until her case was heard. PM Tu’i’onetoa when he became Prime Minister brought back Akosita to the Cabinet. No surprise as his chief advisor was Akosita’s husband, ‘Etuate.

This reflected badly on the Prime Minister, that Akosita was found guilty of three counts of fraud, and sentenced to six years (with one year suspended) of imprisonment. Further more, to make things worse, ‘Etuate, who had become the Prime Minister’s chief advisor, and Deputy Chair of his PAK party, was also convicted of fraud and sentenced to six years imprisonment.

Chaos was breaking out around the Prime Minister’s circle. But what has made this whole saga damaging in public perception is that the Prime Minister is being revealed as facilitator of criminals, that is if the Lavulavus, his close friends could be regarded as criminals. And they are!

PM Tui’onetoa is also holding off on any action on the Governor of Ha’apai, Manuopangai Hingano, who was convicted of the crime of possession and delivery of turtle meat. This is a misdemeanor that did not require a jail sentence but a criminal offense nevertheless in which he was fined.

Manuopangai who will be a candidate for Ha’apai 12 will be running as a PAK candidate, it is revealed. This is the party that has a Minister of its Cabinet in jail, as well as the Deputy Chair.

But if there’s one thing PM Tu’i’ontoa is not known for is that he never admits any wrongdoing, and he never says sorry of abuses, lies, moral or legal infringement he makes .

Those who hide will be exposed

There is an emerging common belief among people in Tonga, that the conviction and sentencing of the Lavulavu couple is not only a huge blow to imbedded corruption in Government, but is also a spiritual light shining in the darkness of those who hide in corruption.

It is appropriate to point out that the Scriptures 1 Corinthians 4:5 and 2 Corinthians 4:2 make sense to a largely religious Tongan population in which the Prime Minister is an ordained minister of one religious group.

“He (God) will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.”

“Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.”

What has been an interesting but not surprising phenomenon, is the number of people who have taken a stand in support of the Lavulavus, and the Prime Minister, because they depend on this inappropriate association to hide their own criminal or inappropriate behavior.

They have “hidden motives” and have “secret and shameful ways” to hide from being known for who they are. There is not a supporter of the Lavulavus who excuse their criminal activity that are themselves free from “hidden motives”.

This is why there have been attacks against the judiciary, and in particular the judge who convicted the couple. These attacks come in the form of questioning the judicial decision, but there are those who have gone on to even bring personal attacks against the judge.

While these attacks are baseless, the enforcers of the law have been largely silent, even when “contempt of court” should have been applied to these enemies of justice and the truth.

One consultant who used to work for the Lavulavus and who is an ardent supporter, recently wrote an article on corruption choosing to focus first on the judiciary as an institution where corruption can take place. How conveniently said at a time when the supporters of the Lavulavus are zeroing in on the judiciary in their attacks.

Do they really think this will bring them a positive result in the appeal to the Appeals Court? Or are they only blindly exposing their own hearts and motives?

And this consultant is a board member in one of the Government ministries. He is also one of the founders of PAK. Why should anyone be surprised in a stance made by someone who is chained to the Lavulavus and the Prime Minister through his associations where he is paid?

There are those who are calling on compassionate grounds that mercy be extended to keep them out of jail. The excuse used is that the couple has young children, and that ‘Etuate may qualify for royal pardon since he is over sixty year’s old.

It is however unreasonable (and unjust) for any extension of mercy since both Lavulavus have maintained their innocence and “not guilty” plea. They have no remorse, and if they were mindful of their children, they would have refrained from doing something that would incur negative impact on their lives.

But while support for the Prime Minister has suffered tremendously because of his stance for the Lavulavus, there are those who will follow him come rain or shine!

One thing in common among those who are fanatical supporters of the Prime Minister and the Lavulavus, is that there is something they are counting on the Prime Minister to help them with. Essentially, it’s to help them hide from exposure of their wrongdoing or even prosecution of wrongs they’ve committed.

One person who was a strong critic of the Prime Minister made a flip-flop because he needed him to go to bat for him so he did not have to be extradited for prosecution overseas. He has become an attacker of those who criticizes the Prime Minister and the Lavulavus.

Another business leader suddenly makes compassionate comments for the Lavulavus; he is a board member of one of the ministries Akosita was the Minister. His appointment as the member of the Board has colored his thinking and ends up contradicting his own proclaimed moral stance.

And yet another business owner has flip-flopped a number of times in his views and stance in relation to the Government. Eventually, it was revealed he is a director of a Board, that his business has a loan with.

There are many examples of “hidden motives” among supporters of the Lavulavus and the Prime Minister, but the most dangerous ones seem to be those who use religious jargon to excuse their behavior. Jargons such as “do not judge”, “be merciful”, “no one is perfect”, “only Jesus is perfect” only reveal how shallow some of these people are in their understanding of truth and scripture.

So, if no one is perfect, what do we do then? Continue to commit crimes – robbery, assault, murder, rape, etc. – because no one is perfect? If God’s judgment is the only perfect one, should we go ahead and dismantle the Police, the Judiciary, and all institutions that enforce the law? And why the need for law if it cannot be enacted, and have no consequences?

Hiding behind a veneer of religious hypocrisy, false academic elitism, meaningless social hierarchy, and egotistical self-promotion can only be summed up in one statement: “He will expose the motives in men’s hearts.”

It is only in the light – honesty, transparency, humility, and courage – that darkness will flee, and unity of purpose and commitment, can bring liberation, peace and harmony to our society.