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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09SUVA247 2009-06-10 23:13:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Suva
Cable title:  

POLITICAL INTRIGUE AROUND A LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER

Tags:   PGOV PREL TN AS 
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R 102313Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY SUVA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 1307
INFO AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 
AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 
AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 
AMEMBASSY MAJURO 
AMEMBASSY KOLONIA 
AMEMBASSY KOROR 
AMEMBASSY LONDON 
AMEMBASSY PARIS 
AMEMBASSY TOKYO 
AMEMBASSY APIA 
USEU BRUSSELS
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 
HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
					  UNCLAS SUVA 000247 


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TN AS
SUBJECT: POLITICAL INTRIGUE AROUND A LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER
CALLING FOR HIM TO RESIGN



1. (SBU) Summary: A letter calling for Tongan Prime Minister Dr.
Feleti "Fred" Sevele to resign caused a stir at the May 28 opening
of Parliament. Senior parliamentarians and nobles alike reportedly
supported the letter, which was written by a close confidant of the
king. End summary.



--------------------------


CALLING FOR THE PRIME MINISTER'S RESIGNATION


--------------------------





2. (SBU) The opening of the Tongan parliament on May 28 was filled
with political intrigue after a letter calling for the resignation
of PM Sevele was reportedly delivered to him while he was en route
to the PALM 5 summit in Japan. The letter also recommends as
Sevele's replacement, Crown Prince (and Tongan High Commissioner to
Australia) Tupouto'a-Lavaka. Emeline Tuita, a former Tongan
ambassador to China and close associate of King George Tupou V,
authored the letter after coordinating meetings with the speaker of
parliament, the nine nobles' representatives and the Tongatapu No.1
People's Representative in parliament, Akilisi Pohiva (who is also
Tonga's leading pro-democracy activist) to discuss key political,
economic and fiscal issues facing the Kingdom. The letter was
passed around in government and political circles before its
eventual leak to the public. According to a source close to the
royal family, the letter has caused a rift in the king's family,
with Princess Salote Mafile'o Pilolevu Tuita (the king's sister who
acts as regent when the king is away) supporting the prime minister
and her brother, Crown Prince Tupouto'a-Lavaka, supporting Tuita.



--------------------------


A LAUNDRY LIST OF GRIEVANCES


--------------------------





3. (SBU) The letter proclaims "consensus amongst the parties that
the Kingdom is currently in an intolerable fiscal, economic and
political crisis that can only be resolved through uniting the
Nobles and the People of Tonga with the common goal to support His
Majesty King George Tupou V's vision for the Kingdom." It outlines
the key issues with the Sevele government, including his
"counterproductive" leadership style, concern about escalating lack
of transparency and accountability of government, concern over the
king's "guilt by association" with the PM's policies, the
"overpowering role" of government combined with the PM's "conflict
of interest" at every level in which he operates, and the need for
the nobility to intervene in order to avoid a crisis similar to the
2006 riots over the slow pace of democratic reform.



--------------------------


PRIME MINISTER'S SUPPORT ERODING


--------------------------





4. (SBU) Some speculate that the recent resignation of three
government ministers was due to their concerns over the leadership
style of the prime minister, although with reforms due to be
implemented in 2009-2010, the current ministers' positions would be
eliminated anyway. Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice
Alisi Afeaki Taumoepeau has privately hinted at her differences with
the prime minister, including the way the PM wants to go about
amending the Constitution and legislation. Taumoepeau said Sevele
wanted to "take short cuts" with some reform initiatives, suggesting
parliament be bypassed if possible.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





5. (SBU) The letter and the issues it raises cannot be easily
ignored. During the month leading up to the 2006 riots, a petition
calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Sevele widely
circulated with much public support. The government largely ignored
it, and Sevele dismissed it as a publicity stunt. A commoner,
Sevele has never been completely accepted by the nobles, and his
leadership style has rubbed others in the government the wrong way.
The king's position is not known, but Tuita is a close confidant of
the king and prior to becoming Tonga's first ambassador to the
People's Republic of China was the chief operating officer of the
king's Shoreline Group of companies.

MCGANN