PM Pohiva Tu’ionetoa: who is lying at Lulutai Airlines?

PM Pohiva Tu'ionetoa & Edgar Cocker, Acting CEO of Lulutai Arilines

By Kalafi Moala


24 September 2020: We need to clear the air at Lulutai Airlines. In this special interview with the media, Airline Pilot and Captain Maikolo Faasolo states, “My main concern is not retaining the CEO position for Lulutai Airlines but to clear my name from the accusations and lies told against me.” 

He produced as evidence his Master of Science degree certificate issued by The City University of London School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. His Master of Science was in “Air Transport Management”, it was issued on 28 October 2010.

Remember, Mr. Faasolo undertook the studies for his Master’s Degree after years of experience as an airline pilot and captain. He first trained as a pilot in New Zealand, employed by Royal Tongan Airlines, and later spent 12 years in the Persian Gulf as a pilot in Bahrain before returning to Tonga to fly for Real Tonga Airlines.

Accompanying the MSc certificate was also the final transcript of academic performance results during the years 2009/2010. Such subjects include Airline Operations, Active Safety Management, Human Resource Management, Air Transport Economics, Quality Assurance in Airline Management, Air Accident Investigation, Airworthiness and Maintenance, Airline Management and Finance, plus a project he had to complete.

These are studies that should be required for anyone who should fill the position of CEO at an airline company like Lulutai Airlines. But some not-so-smart opponent of Mr. Faasolo raised the issue that the name on the University certificate is not Maikolo Faasolo but Mikaele Tama ‘a Manu’a Fa’asolo.

“‘Mikaele’ is my baptism name,” Mr. Faasolo said. And of-course, anyone in Tonga who understands Catholic names would have known that Mikaele is ‘Catholic’ for Maikolo, just as Malia is ‘Catholic’ for Mele, or Soane for Sione. This due to the influence of French missionaries and Latin language in Tonga’s Catholic Church. Nothing could be as petty to assume otherwise, that ‘Mikaele’ and ‘Maikolo’ are two different persons.

To say that Mr. Faasolo is one of Tonga’s most qualified aviation man is an understatement. To answer the question as to why he was sidelined from his CEO position at Lulutai Airlines based on malicious rumors concerning his qualification is something the Prime Minister and his Lulutai Board must do.

It is a serious injustice committed against a man who had done no wrong. And to have him try and produce evidence to justify his suitability which has been questioned and acted upon by the Board of Directors based on hearsay is disgustingly absurd.

But this Government as it approaches its first anniversary in October is looking more absurd than ever especially when the Prime Minister Dr. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa denied that Mr. Faasolo was ever the CEO of Lulutai.

Edgar Cocker, Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet, is the Acting CEO for Lulutai, according to the Prime Minister. He said the post of CEO for the new airline would be advertised soon for applicants. Mr. Cocker however supported the Prime Minister’s denial that Mr. Faasolo was the Lulutai CEO before he was demoted.

And this is where the Prime Minister’s denial narrative gets interesting, for Mr. Faasolo holds an Employment Contract with Lulutai Airlines as his employer. He is contracted as CEO under Civil Aviation Rule Parts 119 and 145. He is also contracted as Captain (Pilot) for the Saab 340 B+ plane, as well as Captain (Pilot) for the Y12E plane.

The contract was signed on 17 August 2020, and it is an employment agreement that ends on 16 August 2021. This is a contract for CEO of Lulutai Airlines, as well as Captain (Pilot) of the two planes owned by the airline.

As the employee, Mikaele Faasolo signed on his behalf. Edgar Cocker, the company secretary signed for Lulutai Airlines. The signing was done in the presence of Civil Aviation lawyer, Posesi Bloomfield, whose stamp is where his signature is on.

Having viewed Mr. Faasolo’s contract as CEO with Lulutai, and having seen other documentation confirming his academic qualification, the onus is on the Prime Minister (and on Edgar Cocker) to explain themselves, for as it stands against the evidence, they have lied to the public, and continue to be defensive of their actions against Mr. Faasolo.

The Prime Minister and his Chief Secretary, indeed the whole Lulutai Board of Directors, need to apologize to Mr. Faasolo publicly for their undue misuse of authority, putting him under unnecessary social and emotional pressure without any reason of wrongdoing on his part.

It does not fare well for Lulutai Airlines on the day of its inaugural flight that has been delayed from September 19 to September 24. While the airline may be able to take its first flight to Vava’u, the way it has come to this point in so much controversy may be more than enough reasons to clip its wings.




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