The rogue committee, Tonga Ma’a Tonga Rugby League (TMTRL), campaigns to gain government support despite PM Pohiva Tu’ionetoa’s firm stance that his government will support the Tonga National Rugby League (TNRL).
Further, PM Tu’ionetoa made clear no further talks with the international governing body (IRL) until the court case – currently in arbitration is settled.
Radio New Zealand reports, “The President of Tonga Ma’a Tonga Rugby League is hoping for government support and more backing from local clubs as it seeks to become a member of the sport’s global body.”
TMTRL also claims: “Twenty-two clubs reportedly attended a meeting last month recognising TMTRL as the governing body of the sport in Tonga, after the IRL expelled the Tonga National Rugby League (TNRL) in March.”
Lord Fakafanua, who was newly elected last month as the President of the TMTRL states, “Local clubs are within their own rights to choose which national body they want to join as members so I remain hopeful that eventually all clubs will be under an organisation which is also a member of IRL.”
However, the issue with the claim that local clubs support the TMTRL is strongly disputed, if not, just flat out false. Last month, a meeting of local clubs representative with the Prime Minister showed majority of the original clubs who started rugby league in Tonga are heavily in favor of the TNRL. A recent petition of support by the local clubs was presented to Prime Minister Tu’ionetoa with 19 members vouching support.
The details of that report can be found here.
At the same time, “TNRL Secretary William Edwards said it had 24 registered clubs in 2019 and of the 14 that contested the First Division, nine were still with the TNRL and the five who defected did not make the playoffs.”
William Edwards goes on to explain, “19 clubs presented a petition to the Prime Minister’s office saying they were never consulted by the Implementation Committee.”
“If they did have the majority, they would’ve had the power to remove the Board, which has been the bone of contention for them, and they would’ve been able to resume or take power. They didn’t. Why? Because they never had a majority. Never,” he said.
“They’ve got to be able to host a competition in Tonga and they’ve got to be able to run that competition and they’ve got to have numbers, especially from a senior and junior competition, and if they don’t have those numbers then they’re not fulfilling the minimum requirements of the IRL.”
The details on government’s concern over lack of consultation can be found here.
Edwards further explains, “Our government is the one that registers these societies and our government is the one that turns around and approves who they’re going to fund and support and they can’t say anything about it.”
“The lawyer-by-trade said the TNRL was also a member of the IOC in Tonga which meant the the rival TMTRL could not be.”
“So that’s going to make it very difficult for them because no team from TMTRL can attend any of the Commonwealth Games, South Pacific Games or Mini Games for the Pacific Nations because we are the IOC member.”
Issues with the TMTRL
As we have previously reported, a court battle began in 2014 against the TNRL Board Chairman and President, Stan Moheloa and Semisi Sika. They changed the TNRL constitution to give themselves 4 year term. And, failed to account for the money in 2012 – 2013 financial year.
“Judge Cato in 2014 declared the decision to amend the Constitution unlawful.”
“In 2016 Chief Justice Paulsen declared financial mismanagement in the years 2012 – 2015 under Sika and Moheloa.”
“Over $60,000 pa’anga of rugby league funds were unaccounted.”
“In April of 2018, Sika and Moheloa failed to provide financial statements in accordance with the Constitution. This led to another court proceedings against Sika and Moheloa.”
“On 12 November, 2018, Judge Laki Niu dismissed the Board under Sika and Moheloa over misconduct, and failing to comply with the rules.”
However, despite court battles and mis-used funds, Semisi Sika is now the newly elected Chairman of the TMTRL, along with other members of the former board that was dissolved by the Supreme Court.
Further, the IRL depended heavily on a letter Semisi Sika while he was Acting Prime Minister in 2019, claiming the government no longer support the TNRL, to make their case.
The current Prime Minister of Tonga, however, wrote a letter to the IRL revoking Sika’s statements, and affirmed government support for the TNRL.
In light of strong TNRL support from the government and local clubs – how does Sika, who was ousted by the court over corruption and mismanagement, have the backing of the IRL?
Why does the TNRL turn a blind eye to the corruption that has been proven in a court of law, yet conspired with the same players to usurp the authority of the TNRL, who is an autonomous member of the league federation with full membership?
This sets a new dangerous precedent where the IRL can arbitrarily decide which member to revoke based on their economic and commercial needs, rather than play by their own governing rules, respect the autonomy of their members, and the sovereignty of developing countries dependent on rugby as a means for struggling youth to find opportunities.