Disagreement Over Vessel Leads To Tokelau MP’s Demotion
By Alan Ah Mu
APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Feb. 25, 2013) –A sailing of the boat MV Tokelau against the wishes of a top New Zealand politician caused a Cabinet minister of the Tokelau Government to be stripped of his portfolios.
The demotion which came to light in June last year was confirmed to the media but the cause of it was not – until today.
Foua Toloa was appointed Tokelau’s minister for Finance, Telecommunication, Energy and Transport for the period 2011-2013. By then he had served two terms as the head of Tokelau’s government or Ulu.
Toloa ordered the MV Tokelau to set sail after New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, had spoken against any further sailing of the boat, said General Manager of Tokelau’s office in Apia, Jovilisi Suveinakama.
It caused the relationship with New Zealand to be "disturbed," said Suveinakama.
"That in turn caused concern to the elders of Tokelau," he said.
Tokelau’s Cabinet decided to strip Toloa off his portfolios.
Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand and Tokelauans are New Zealand citizens.
McCully viewed MV Tokelau as unseaworthy and unfit to carry New Zealand citizens, said Suveinakama. The Foreign Affairs minister was unwilling to put lives at risk, he said, "That for him, it was a moral issue."
If the boat had sunk, McCully would’ve been held responsible, said the General Manager.
Tokelau gifted MV Tokelau to Samoa Shipping Corporation as recognition of their many years of work together.
The Corporation was informed that the boat was no longer seaworthy, Suveinakama said.
Toloa has strong and close links to Samoa. He is married to a Samoan and is a matai who holds the title of Amituana’i. Like many Tokelauans he is a fluent speaker of Samoan – and English. Efforts to contact him for this story were not successful.
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