Former Tonga PM Pōhiva Tu‘i‘onetoa loses seat through electoral petition

The Member of Parliament for Tongatapu 10 and former Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa, has lost his seat in Parliament after the Supreme Court declared his election void.

Tu’i’onetoa was found guilty on Friday of bribery in the lead up to the 2021 General Elections.

Farmer and registered voter for Tongatapu 10, Kelekolio Taniela Kiu filed the election petition alleging Tu‘i‘onetoa committed bribery on two occasions.

Kaniva News reports Kiu claimed that TP$50,000 was offered to the Women’s Group of Tongatapu on behalf of Dr. Tu’i’onetoa to influence voters.

The second case involved the opening of the ‘Afā Wharf.

Witnesses who were at the opening of the wharf said they heard the former Prime Minster say he had made the wharf happen and asked the people present to vote for him because of this.

Justice Nicholas Cooper heard the matter over three days.

Justice Cooper found that the offer of TP$50,000 constituted a bribe because it sought to influence a clearly defined group of people. The construction of the wharf benefitted everybody in Tongatapu 10 and beyond and so did not constitute bribery.

“I make a declaration that in accordance with the findings in this judgement Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa committed bribery on one occasion in breach of section 1 (a) of the Electoral Act 1989,” Judge Cooper said.

“In respect of this, pursuant to section 32 of the Electoral Act 1989 1 make a declaration that the election of Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa on 18th November 2021 as the People’s Representative for the Tongatapu number 10 Electoral District is void.

“Pursuant to section 37 of the Electoral Act 1989 1 shall forthwith certify this result to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.”


Photo file Caption: Member of Parliament for Tongatapu 10 and former Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa