By Kalafi Moala
21 September, 2020: In his own words, Maikolo Faasolo, former CEO of Lulutai Airlines, said, “he was demoted as a result of rumors circulated on social media that he had lied concerning his CV.” In question was speculation over the validity of his Master’s degree from a London University.
Mr. Faasolo confirmed in a chat with this reporter that he did not lie, and that he is trying to clear his name from the false information rumored about him.
“I was demoted pending investigation, but it has been confirmed that there is nothing incorrect about my CV,” he said.
Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet, Edgar Cocker has taken over as Acting CEO for Lulutai, since the demotion of Mr. Faasolo.
As one of Tonga’s first group of pilots trained at a young age, Mr. Faasolo worked in the Middle East as a pilot for some years. He has been in aviation for 31 years, and he is one of Tonga’s most experienced pilots and aviation manager.
The question has been raised as to why the Lulutai Board based on what turned out to be a false allegation, pushed Mr. Faasolo “under the bus”, and not given him the benefit of the doubt until the truth is fully disclosed?
The local Anti-corruption group in Tonga known as “Komiti Fakafepaki e Faihalá” (KFF) is alleged to have been responsible for the posts on Facebook.
The Lulutai Board is headed up by the Prime Minister, Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa. The others are Tevita Lavemaau, Minister of Finance; Akosita Lavulavu, Minister of Infrastructure and Tourism; and Poasi Tei, Minister of MEIDECC.
In talking to Mr. Faasolo, he seemed to have faced this difficult situation with calmness, despite his disappointment that his name has been dragged in the mud as someone who lied about his qualifications.
He even had to seek counsel from Cardinal Paini Mafi of the Catholic Church as he is a devoted Catholic. “I wanted him to know that I did not lie about my qualifications,” he said.
He was employed by Lulutai Airlines from its inception after having served as Flight Operating Manager for Real Tonga Airlines, now grounded without a license to operate.
Mr. Faasolo said he is still with Lulutai Airlines working as the Flight Operating Manager.
Lulutai Airlines was supposed to start flights to Vava’u on Saturday 19 September, but according to Faasolo, the first flight is now rescheduled for Thursday 24 September. Prospective passengers are said to have purchased tickets already for the inaugural flight to Vava’u.
“All the compliance and security issues have been cleared by the Tonga Civil Aviation authority,” Mr. Faasolo said. “We are ready.”
He said the two planes that were used by Real Tonga, the Y12 and Saab, are ready to be used in the flights which are scheduled to cover Vava’u, Ha’apai, and ‘Eua. The MA60 plane that was a gift from China, is still under repair.
Lulutai Airlines is fully owned by the Tonga Government. Negotiations for a possible joint-venture with Real Tonga failed.
In the meantime Lulutai has also gone on to set up its own mechanical service branch for its aircraft maintenance and flights, thus replacing Palu Aviation which serviced for many years all flight in and out of Tonga. It is understood that the cost of the service required by Palu Aviation “was far too expensive so we had to do our own,” according to a source from Lulutai Airlines.
It is unclear as to whether or not Lulutai Airlines has received its operating license (AOC) from the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO), located in Port Vila, Vanuatu.