Motions on the sale of ministerial vehicles, MIQ rules, and increasing the retirement age of public servants defeated

As the island awaits the outcome of the special meeting of the Fono Ekepule to hear the vote of no-confidence motion scheduled for 1 pm tomorrow, there were four other motions debated at the last sitting.

Only two members put forth motions to the meeting last Wednesday, Hon. Va’aiga Tukuitonga from Alofi North presented two motions. Her first motion calling on “the Government and the Health to retain the mandatory quarantine of 14 days of any returning passengers to Niue in view of the current Covid19 numbers increasing steadily”.

The second motion calls on “the Government, Premier and Cabinet to consider changing the working age of government employees to 65 years comparable to that of New Zealand and one condition of the person’s capability”.

Both of Hon. Tukuitonga’s motions were defeated. There was very little discussion on the motion after Minister of Natural Resources Hon. Esa Mona Ainuu read out the government’s statement from the Health Department with the goal to “..delay the entry of Covid 19 but if it enters, we also aim to contain it and eliminate it, and we are confident that we can do this”.

There was some excitement when a Point of Order was called upon the Minister by Hon. Tukuitonga questioned why the Minister of Natural Resources was responding to a motion about health and not the Minister of Health Hon. Sauni Tongatule.

For those who are familiar with the Fono Ekepule most of the discussions and presentations in the Fono are in Vagahau Niue, but this statement was delivered only in English.

The second motion calling on the Premier and Cabinet to increase the retirement age of public servants to 65 heard a few interesting interventions from the members. Many of them referred to their personal situations, most of the new members to the Fono Ekepule are in their fifties and will not be eligible for the pension until they turn 60.

What is interesting about this motion, was that the Fono did not consider that the constitutional jurisdiction of setting the terms and conditions of employment of the public service is that of the Public Service Commission and not that of Cabinet, as stipulated in article 68(2) of the Constitution.

Common Roll member Hon. O’love Jacobsen presented two motions. One of her motions was calling on “..the Government of Niue to conduct an urgent review of the state of Taoga Niue building and for the Review to be tabled in the House”, the majority of the members voted for the motion.

Her second motion for the Assembly to “call on Cabinet to disallow the policy on the sale of Ministerial vehicles offered to individual Ministers and Speaker at the conclusion of their term in office” was defeated.

Hon. Jacobsen quoted from a government policy that allows the ministerial vehicles used by Ministers and the Speaker to be sold to the respective ministers and the Speaker of the Fono Ekepule at the end of their term.

The policy requires that the vehicle be valued by a qualified mechanic but there were interventions such as that from former Minister Hon. Va’aiga Tukuitoga said that during her time, they did not have any such policy. She says that the mechanic’s valuation can be easily influenced by whatever the minister may want to pay. Hon. Tukuitoga recalled during her time as a minister, at the completion of their ministerial term, they returned the vehicles to Fale Fono. She says that these are government assets and leaders should show leadership.

“You are not here for yourself; you are here to represent your constituency,” says Hon. Tukuitoga.

Premier Hon. Dalton Tagelagi said that he could not believe the Fono Ekepule was debating about vehicles, that he and his officials worked very hard to secure donor funding to procure the vehicles.

He said if anything the members should be asking him to seek more donor funds to buy more vehicles.

In previous years, at the end of the ministerial term, Ministers and the Speaker have bought the vehicles they used during their term, but the cost of each of the vehicles was never disclosed.

Hon. Jacobsen contends that these vehicles used by the current ministers and the Speaker are brand new vehicles and should still be passed on to the next ministers.

In her final remarks before the vote on her motion, Hon. Jacobsen reminded the Fono that leaders should be setting examples of ethical behaviour and not perpetuate the thinking that promotes the notion often heard in the Chambers “This is our time, we will do it our way, you wait until your time”. She says that this notion is dangerous and irresponsible not consistent with the principles of transparency and accountability, and it is important that the people hear what their leaders have said about this motion. Hon. Jacobsen says that leaders should also lead with humility.

The motion was defeated.

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