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Parliament says Taione did not swear as row over alleged comments in House heats up

The Parliament has denied claims that MP Johnny Taione swore in the House.

As Kaniva News reported last night, Taione’s alleged swearing was picked up on a microphone and broadcast.

MP Piveni Piukala (L), MP Johnny Taione. Photo/Johnny Taione (Facebook)

Kaniva News has listened to the audio on Kele’a Voice livestream of the Parliamentary session and this is what it could tell.

At one stage during the uproar Piukala asked: “Ko e hā ‘a e ‘uhinga ‘a ho’o ta’ofi au whiwch translates into English “Why are you stopping me”.

It followed with what appeared to be the Chairman warning Piukala by saying “me’a ki lalo” which translates into English as “Sit down”.

Another person then be heard as what appeared to be Taione swearing and said:

“Ful_’i ki lalo”.

We have decided to publish the audio here for our readers’ information:

This morning Parliament said Taione has submitted a complaint to the House saying the accusation on social media was false and misleading and he did not swear.

The press release from the House also said the staff had reviewed the tape and they did not hear any swearing from Taione. 

The Speaker also said he ordered the tape to be replayed to the House and there was no swearing on it.

However, many of the Tongan online community including Radio Television Tonga International shared a copy of that part of the audio which the alleged swearing could be heard on Facebook.

As of this evening many commenters on Facebook still believe that what they heard was swearing.

The Parliamentary press release said some other MPs in the House, including Mateni Tapueluelu from the people MPs’ bench, as well as Lord Tu’iha’angana  had witnessed they did not hear Taione swearing.

Kaniva News reviewed the tape again after the press release and can confirm that we  heard on the tape appears to be Taione swearing.

What the press release failed to clarify was a detail written record  of the alleged swearing that Kaniva News and other media have listened to.

If that was provided it would be an easy way to solve the puzzle of what Parliament officially says it heard and what others say they heard.

The alleged swearing came after Piukala and the Chairman of the Whole House Committee became involved in a heated debate after Piukala claimed the government’s annual budget was falsified.

The Prime Minister and the Chairman, Lord Tu’ilakepa, asked Piukala to tell them which specific pages in the budget were falsified. Piukala asked the Chairman to allow the Tongatapu 5 MP to provide an answer before him.

The Chairman refused and told Piukala if he would not take the floor and clarify his claims about the budget he would not give him an opportunity to speak again.

The exchanges escalated into shouting amid warnings from the Speaker that he would suspend Piukala.

Taione interrupted and told the Chairman to stop Piukala.

Taione and Piukala  then began trading verbal punches before Taione allegedly swore at Piukala. This was carried  live on Parliament’s online streaming service.

The chairman finally announced he had suspended Piukala  for a day for “inappropriate behaviour”.

The public has been quick to condemn Taione’s behavior on Facebook, calling it disrespectful and unbecoming of an MP.

Many believe the Chairman should have suspended Taione instead of Piukala. They have also called on the Speaker to take action against Taione, with some even calling for his suspension from Parliament.

Critics said the Chairman Lord Tu’ilakepa should have been  fair to both Piukala and Taione.

Taione’s insult drew a backlash from many who said they were shocked and disgusted by his demeanour.

“That’s unbelievable. It is better to argue and dispute issues as much as you can, but you can’t swear in the House,” a commentater on Facebook said.

“If our MPs didn’t have good manners, that’s too bad,” wrote another.

Others asked why the Speaker was slow to do something about Taione.