Commoners to dominate Cabinet, says noble

Tonga Parliament on Tuesday.

MOST Cabinet ministers in the new government are expected to be commoners, says noble MP Lord Ma’afu Tukui’aulahi.

“Only one or two are probably going to be nobles, but the rest will be chosen from the 17 People’s Representatives,” Lord Ma’afu told Tonga Chronicle after the PM election results were announced on Tuesday.

Parliament members – including 17 elected by the populace and nine by the nobility – voted prominent aristocrat Lord Tu’ivakano as the nation’s new Prime Minister, in a 14-12 count.

Tu’ivakano will choose up to 11 Cabinet ministers – a first for the nation, whose ministers have traditionally been appointed by the King.

Ministers are chosen from amongst the House, although up to four may be appointed from outside if the PM sees it fit. The first Cabinet meeting must be held by January 13th, six weeks after the return of the election writ to the King.

Nobles' Representative Lord Ma'afu

“Commoners will dominate [the Cabinet]. From the 17 I think we have a good collection, and then some good choices can be made from them,” said Ma’afu.

By law, the Minister of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources must be a noble.

The Speaker of the House must also be a noble, and Lord Lasike was chosen for the role on Tuesday. His Deputy Speaker is Lord Tu’i’afitu.

Last month immediately after election day on 25th November, Ma’afu told media “it was not time” to have a noble as Prime Minister.

“Well, that was my personal opinion, and although amongst us nobles we’ve brought up concerns and we have our differences, in the end we have to stand together,” said Ma’afu this week.

He said the outcome of the PM vote could have gone either way, stressing that five commoner MP’s voted for Lord Tu’ivakano – and not only nobles.

“Look, if we put aside emotions and accept the outcome of the election, I don’t see any problem for us to move forward. There are lots of issues that we need to look at within a short amount of time, and so the foundation has to be solid,” said Lord Ma’afu.

In the weeks leading up to the election, both the Democratic Party of the Friendly Isles and the Independents-Nobles alliance floated the idea of a combination Cabinet to include ministers from Pohiva’s, the Independents’ and the nobles’ tables.

Representatives from the Democratic Party of the Friendly Isles say they are yet to be approached on the subject.

- By Josephine Latu