The 2010 Parliament concluded its last session last night, and ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s last statement to the sacred Assembly was as solemn as it was instructive.
Reflecting on the 28 years he’s dominated the Tongatapu popular elections until 2010, he called for mateaki fonua, which he translated as “political will.”
‘Mateaki fonua’ can actually be roughly translated as ‘patriotism’, ‘nationalism’ or, if transliterated, as ‘die for country’.
Pohiva would like to be as revered as Taufa’ahau, the founding monarch of modern Tonga.
In 1875, as the great Fakataha of the Hou‘eiki enacted the Constitution (the world’s second oldest existing constitution after the U.S.), the late founder appealed to the nation to throw themselves into building the country.
King George’s statement was in the context of great foreign imperial and colonial pressure.
A deeply religious person himself, King George was equally religious in his commitment to his country.
In his statement, King George Tonganized Psalm 137, the lamentations of the Jewish people while in slavery in Babylon. He paraphrased the sixth verse as: ‘May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not consider Tonga my highest joy!’
Pohiva’s statement might possibly be his last in Parliament after a long and eventful career, even though he is the most likely of the incumbents to be re-elected, and is still far ahead.
Questions of efficacy for failure to form a workable coalition among Representatives, and the lack of any pro-active policies to advance the economy will haunt his re-election campaign.
It seems his single most grave mistake was establishing a party, a mechanism built to rope up Representatives. It was build to counter the Nobles, however it ended up isolating key votes and instituted the first bulkheads against forming a majority.
The call for national unity and synergy is a unique show of reason. Now and again, a quantum of rationality escapes the fog of the long drawn political trench warfare in Parliament.
The past four weeks’ sessions were a very fractious and frictioned ordeal, and saw some extremely critical and controversial Cabinet Bills breezing through the unicameral House without sufficient scrutiny.
(In fact, Pohiva’s statement followed a directive by the Speaker to erase comments by MPs from the Hansards, which were prejudicial to sub judice cases.)
The amount of bluster and conflict pumped out live on national radio by Parliamentarians serve to exacerbate even what borders as religio-institutional clashes between schools.
The Bills were needed, but with Parliament running out of time — even though the session was extended by an extra two weeks — they weren’t properly examined and had to be enacted before the election terms expired.
Included were critical reform bills aimed at restructuring the economy, the financial sector, and greater regulations of non-banking financial institutions.
As expected during an election year, the problem of time was exacerbated as Representatives flicked the debate off on tangents, by (sometimes illegally) re-introducing several decade-old ideological arguments and incidents with the hope of scoring points for the upcoming General Election.
The issue was further aggravated as the debates were broadcasted live on at least two national radio stations.
As the final session of the 2010 Parliament comes to a close, and the elections truly get underway, voters will have to think about the balance between personality politics and functioning systems.