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Controversy surrounds MPs’ pay rise backdated  to 2018; but Parliament claims move was legal

A big pay rise received by Tongan Parliamentarians this year has been met with controversy and its legality disputed.

Speaker Lord Fakafanua (L), Mateni Tapueluelu

The PTOA (Democrats) party has sought legal advice on Parliament’s back paying of a salary hike of four years from 2018 to 2022.

The PTOA said the pay rise did not comply with government regulations.

The government’s use of a circular rather than face-to-face voting in the House to see if MPs approved the pay hike has been called into question.

The Parliament said the salary rise was legal and was approved through a circular which was distributed among the MPs.

The Legislative Assembly’s Deputy Clerk, Dr Sione Vikilani, said the circular was a legal means of communication approved by the House.

“The circular was a means of communication and it could be used and any decision made through it is not illegal”, Dr Vikilani told Kaniva News in Tongan.

He confirmed the back pay had been paid out to members and staff of the House.

He did not respond to a question from Kaniva asking why a circular was used to ballot the pay hike and not a face-to-face voting in the House.

He also did not respond to our request to name the MPs who balloted for and against the motion for the salary increase.  

We attempted to get the details of the pay rise and the amount paid to each Parliamentarian but to no avail.

Former MP and Minister of Police Māteni Tapueluelu told Kaniva News he had refused to accept the pay hike after it was approved.

He believed it was wrong for the Parliament to hire an independent consultant to advise on its pay rise.

“I have read the regulation and Section 13 stipulated that only the Tonga Remuneration Authority can consider and make recommendations as to the remuneration and other monetary benefits of the Parliamentarians and MPs,” Hon. Tapueluelu said.

He believed the pay rise gave each Parliamentarians a total of TP$40,000 or about TP$1 million altogether.

Tapueluelu said the PTOA Party was seeking legal advice from their lawyer in New Zealand about the issue.