Tonga’s Deputy PM slams Heilala speech

Tongan Deputy Prime Minister Semisi Sika has slammed comments made at the Miss Heilala crowning ceremony by the 2018 winner as disgraceful.

Mr. Sika was reported to have ordered that loud music be played to drown out a speech by last year’s winner, Kalo Funganitao.

“She disgraced the dignity of the Miss Heilala pageant,” he said.

However, during her speech this year’s contestants linked arms in an apparent display of solidarity with Funganitao.

During the closing event in Nuku’alofa, Funganitao, launched an attack on the pageant for not doing anything after she was bullied by pageant committee members and members of the public.

She said he had been the victim of cyberbullying ever since he won the title and pageant organisers had not supported her.

The incident, which was livestreamed, showed Funganitao saying she and her mother had been cheated and lied to.

Funganitao was supposed to crown this year’s Miss Heilala winner, Miss Yehenara Soukoup from Hawai’i.

Speaking to Kaniva News, Mr. Sika said the Auckland University law student had “misconducted herself.”

He said it was “inappropriate” for her to criticise the Heilala Pageant Committee and its work on stage.

“Her final speech and walk on stage should have been a time to give thanks and be positive,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

“It was not an opportunity for her to make negative criticisms as she discredited the Pageant and the Miss Heilala 2019.

“It was inappropriate for her to make a political and personal statements.”

However, the 2019 Miss Heilala contestants came onto the stage and joined her brother and mother.

They linked arms and formed a line across the stage as Funganitao spoke.

Local reports said Sika ordered technical staff to play loud music to drown out Funganitao while she was speaking.

Her microphone was then turned off by organisers.

“If you have guts to attack a person as a group in such a cowardly way then you can deal with the consequences when she shares her experiences with the entire world,” Funganitao said.

“There needs to be an upheaval of the restricting current framework because it is not working.”