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Prime Minister Pōhiva warned about use of circulars, said they muzzled Opposition MPs

It is time for the practice of using circulars to make decisions in Parliament was reviewed.

Tonga Parliament. Photo/Fale Alea ‘o Tonga (Facebook)

Circulars should only be used on agendas that are not urgent.

They should not be used on important issues such as pay rises for Parliamentarians.

Such issues should be properly debated in the House so that they can be recorded in the minutes for the public to read and also broadcast for people to listen.

As Kaniva News reported yesterday, the government’s use of a circular to canvas MPs’ views on a pay rise has been called into question.

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

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

In 2018 Tonga’s former Prime Minister, the late ‘Akilisi Pōhiva, warned that using circulars in Parliament was open to abuse.

Speaking to Kaniva News, Pōhiva said the use of circulars was legal, but did not allow for discussion.

MPs, especially the Opposition, could not debate whatever agenda was being circulated.

He said that traditionally Speakers and the Noble’s representatives, who were mostly the majority  in the House, used it to ballot issues they wanted to be decided in their favour.

The decision was adopted through a circular, by collective resolution of Parliament.

Prime Minister Pōhiva’s concerns are just as relevant today as they were four years ago.

Debates and voting in the House must be open so that all citizens can see how their MPs voted and debate can be held in public.

This was illustrated in our story yesterday when Dr Vikilani would not say how MPs voted on the circular. 

A Parliament with secrets is not truly democratic.