3 Jun 2016

Tonga's PM defends controversial Pacific Games stance

9:26 am on 3 June 2016
Tonga's Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva arrives in PNG with Niue's Premier Toke Talagi for the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in September 2015.

Tongan PM 'Akilisi Pohiva alongside his Niuean counterpart Toke Talagi at a recent forum. Photo: Koro Vaka'uta / RNZ

Tonga's Prime Minister says the government will advertise the job of chair of the local organising committee, despite the Pacific Games Council saying it's infringing its hosting contract.

Last week a committee headed by 'Akilisi Pohiva said it sacked Lord Sevele as CEO and chair of the committee.

The Prime Minister said the decision was made after advice from previous hosts Papua New Guinea on cutting costs and local management.

However the Pacific Games Council said Lord Sevele remains in the position as the government doesn't have the authority to make changes.

The Council said the hosting contract, signed by the government and approved by parliament, outlines the powers of hiring and removing members of the committee.

Previously, the Council warned the government not to interfere and said its hosting agreement could be cancelled.

But Mr Pohiva said if the 2019 Games were removed it would not hinder local sporting events and Tonga's participation in other regional and international games.

'Tonga would welcome' cancellation of Games hosting

It's also been revealed that Tonga's Chief Secretary told the Pacific Games Council that the kingdom would welcome being dropped as hosts of the 2019 games.

Kaniva Pacific reports Palenitina Langa'oi wrote a letter in response to the Council's threat to strip the country of the games, saying the government would stand by its decision to drop Lord Sevele.

It was dated May 20, a week before the government annouced his supposed sacking.

Dr Langa'oi said the government would welcome a decision to cancel its host agreement, and it was prepared to withdraw all of its funding and support towards the operations.

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