Tonga Prime Minister accused of dictatorial political interference and attempting to dissol

June 18, 2018

The meeting was reportedly called by Pōhiva and attended by the country's Deputy Prime Minister and acting Minister of Internal Affairs.

Representatives of nine national federations were also present - archery, bodybuilding, football, rugby league, netball, swimming, va'a, volleyball and weightlifting.

A federation representative is said to have told TASANOC the Government had claimed they could no longer work with the organisation.

"You were informed at the meeting that this was not possible and then you suggested that the Executive Board be 'dissolved' as was done by you to the rugby union," Lord Tuopu wrote.

"With respect, Prime Minister, this smacks of dictatorial and blatant, political interference with sport.

"You claim that Government cannot work with TASANOC and especially the present Executive Board as one of the reasons to support your wish to dissolve the Executive Board.

"Prime Minister, I beg to differ.

"TASANOC and its Executive Board have done all it could and can to work together and support Government, but it's only Government through you who can say that you cannot work with TASANOC or its Executive Board."

TASANOC have accused the Tongan Government and Prime Minister of interference in sport ©ITG

The claims come a month after legal action was launched by TASANOC and the Pacific Games Council (PGC) against the Tongan Government, following the nation's withdrawal from hosting the 2019 Pacific Games last year.

A civil suit has been filed by the PGC and the TASANOC, who are both seeking millions of dollars worth of damages for breach of contract.

The Government had claimed they withdrew from staging the Games due to financial concerns.

TASANOC have expressed their belief that the possible effort to dissolve the organisation's Executive Board is in response to the legal action.

"It appears clear to us the main reason for calling the meeting and expressing your displeasure was because of the legal action by the PGC and TASANOC against Government for unilaterally pulling out of the agreement for Tonga to host the 2019 Pacific Games, causing those Games to be relocated to Samoa," the NOC said.

"The matter is before the court and we cannot discuss it here.

"However, the action carried out by the Executive Board was to protect the interest of its members as well as the future of our young sportsmen and sportswomen of Tonga.

"It is within our constitution mandate 'to safeguard TASANOC's absolute autonomy and to resist all pressures whether of political, racial, religious or economic nature."

It has been claimed the Prime Minister alleged TASANOC had not provided financial reports and have a debt to the Government of more than $600,000 (£448,000/508,000), rather than $69,337 (£51,800/58,700) recommended by their auditor.

TASANOC have asserted the Executive Board was different at the time the money was provided and state the context of why it was given needs to be considered.

TASANOC have expressed concern that political interference could result in the country being suspended by sporting bodies ©Getty Images

They claim a Government grant of $464,000 (£346,000/393,000) was given to the organisation surrounding their participation in the Port Moresby 2015 Pacific Games.

An additional $251,000 (£187,000/212,000) was also given, with TASANOC stating this was paid directly to an airline to provide transport for athletes and officials from athletics, cricket, netball and taekwondo to travel to the Games, after they were stranded at the airport.

TASANOC claim the financial accounts for 2016 and 2017 have already been approved by the Ministry of Labour and Commerce and have challenged Pōhiva to confirm in writing that all public funds had been "properly accounted for and verified by professional auditors."

The organisation also sent an auditor's report from September 2015, which recommended $69,337 (£51,800/58,700) be repaid by TASANOC.

It also called for greater financial planning by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, national sport federations and the former TASANOC Executive Board, who were replaced in 2016 after an Extraordinary General Meeting.

Lord Tupou wrote that allegations that unaccounted money from overseas was not true, with funds coming from the International Olympic Committee, the Oceania National Olympic Committee or the Commonwealth Games Federation.

He expressed concern that should the Government continue to pursue the possible dissolution of the TASANOC, that Tonga could be suspended from competing at major sporting events.

"Your accusations against TASANOC are not true and if you and Government continue with this mission and aim to interfere and dissolve TASANOC, it may result in Tonga's suspension from the Olympic Movement and her membership with the IOC, CGF and the PGC," he said.

"We strongly feel that this subject matter is of extreme national importance to the people of Tonga and her young and aspiring athletes who dream of one day of representing Tonga at the Pacific Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games, as well as any other multi-sports event."



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