By Kalafi Moala
30 September, 2020: In early 2019, I was contacted by Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, saying that he was in a financially tight position and he needs to be paid back money which was borrowed by the newspaper Taimi ‘o Tonga. I immediately replied to Mr. Tu’i’onetoa that the newspaper has never borrowed any money from him, and he must have made a mistake.
I also told him that he did make a payment of $5000 to the FM Radio 88.1, like the five other candidates who did the same, as part of their payment for use of the radio for their campaign in 2014. It was not a loan; it was not an investment; it was payment for many hours of services rendered.
The candidates, which included ‘Akilisi Pohiva, Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, and others for the 2014 Parliamentary election, ran programs that included interviews and campaign talks with FM Radio 88.1 anytime they wished.
In 2014, we had the radio license but not yet the equipment to launch the FM radio. The newspaper Taimi ‘o Tonga invested about $70,000 in the purchase of some equipment; and the total amount of $30,000 from the 2014 candidates, enabled us to purchase the remaining equipment and go on air.
It is interesting that of all the 2014 candidates who paid money to the radio, Mr. Tu’i’onetoa is the only one that have asked for money back; and he also went on air toward the end of 2019 and accused ‘Akilisi’s associates of collecting money from them and misusing it. He did not remember that he was one of Akilisi’s associates, and he would not have been elected without direct help from the former late Prime Minister.
Anyway, because Mr. Tu’i’onetoa, now as Prime Minister has made a personal attack on me, and given absolutely false information, I am therefore responsible to make a response to correct his falsehood. The reason for his personal attacks on me as a journalist, and unrelated to the facts of the story written, is that he is averse to criticism that might question his policies and activities.
The Prime Minister is also non-conscientious about lying and giving false and deceptive information; making unrelated personal attacks on anyone that questions him.
Here are the facts:
- The Prime Minister never loaned or invested any money to the Taimi ‘o Tonga newspaper, which is still being published after 30 years, even under different ownership and management. Radio FM 88.1 is still operating as well, and the Prime Minister has been interviewed on it several times.
- Mr. Tu’i’onetoa paid $5000 to cover his programs and use of Radio 88.1 for his campaign of 2014. No money is owed him.
- If Mr. Tu’i’onetoa and the other candidates each paid $10,000 to the radio, as he claims, they would have been prosecuted for overspending on their campaigns. I am amazed that the Prime Minister got his facts so wrong, and if he is on this issue, how much more on other current issues that he is lying about? He is unreliable and untrustworthy on his word.
- My involvement with the late Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva as media advisor had nothing to do with money donated to the radio. I left the PMO after nine months for work-related issues that I felt I could not continue with, as I was constantly being lied to regarding what I wanted to know, including the case of the Forbes Magazine payment by government for an interview.
- The issue of the story was not whether Lulutai should fly or not, but that the Prime Minister was giving false information. He said that PASO, the regional air safety organization was involved in the certification process, when PASO from their Vanuatu Office denied any involvement. That is the gist of the story.
- On the other story concerning Lulutai Airlines and Maikolo Faasolo, the Prime Minister spoke that Faasolo was not the CEO of Lulutai, and that they were awaiting verification of his CV qualification which could have been falsified.
- The story written not only produced information that an employment contract for Faasolo as CEO was signed in August by Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet, Edgar Cocker, but that he operated as Lulutai’s CEO.
- The story also confirmed the validity of Faasolo’s MSc certificate and transcripts from a London University. So, what is the Prime Minister so set at twisting the facts and blatantly lying with personal attacks?
I stand on the facts and the professionalism of the two stories written in regards to Lulutai Airlines. And if the Prime Minister and his cronies wish to take things out of context and question my integrity and professionalism as a journalist, I want to remind him of an incident in 2014, in which I had asked him a question hoping for an answer to clear his name before the campaign.
The question had to do with why he had put government money in his personal bank account (something we discovered), as he contends to hold high standards of ethical and legal behavior as Auditor General. His answer was that he did it for convenience sake, so he can pay his workers on time and conveniently without having to go through the process. His answer was that he did nothing illegal, it was merely for convenience.
I am convinced that since that time, Mr. Tu’i’onetoa has never liked me, for asking him a question that banked on his integrity. His personal attacks which had nothing to do with the stories written, are clear evidence of his questionable state of mind, but also his state of heart, which for a Rev. Dr. is quite surprising.
I had hoped that this Prime Minister was going to be more truthful. At present, he is not only more deceptive, but also arrogant, vindictive, and yet, he has only been leading this new Government for a year. I want to remind the Prime Minister he is a public figure, and it is the media’s responsibility to run stories to inform the public of what Government is or is not doing. His personal attacks only goes to show the stories published here struck a nerve.