Wednesday 19th October 2016
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Nuku’alofa Times - Page 26
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2019 Games ON Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva
• Games Council says there is no change • Lord Sevele calls for work to start • PM wants to reduce costs NUKU’ALOFA (Nuku’alofa Times): The 2019 Pacific Games will be held in Tonga. That’s the word from the Pacific Games Council, the 2019 Pacific Games Organizing Committee and the Tonga Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (TASANOC) despite continuing negative comments made by Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva on the issue. Pacific Games Council President Vidhya Lakhan says as far as they are concerned Tonga is still going to host the Games – in two years time. “In response to reports in the local Tongan press attributed to the Prime Minister addressing Parliament on Tonga’s ability to fully fund the 2019 Pacific Games, the Pacific Games Council has always taken a flexible and modest approach to the requirements of the sporting facilities to ensure that the Games leave Tonga with an affordable legacy,” Vidhya said. “At no stage, for example, has the Council requested the existing 9-hole golf
course be re-developed to an 18-hole facility. The 9-hole course will be suitable for the Pacific Games. “The Pacific Games Council will continue to work cooperatively with the Tongan Government to ensure that the Games venue requirements are affordable and to ensure that the budget of the Games Organising Committee remains modest, but nevertheless capable of supporting a successful Pacific Games. “In fact, the Tonga 2019 Games Organising Committee budget is considerably much smaller than the budgets of the past two previous hosts and is commensurate with Samoa’s budget when it successfully staged the Pacific Games in 2007.” Vidhya said the PGC has not changed its stance on Tonga hosting the Games, despite all the negativity surrounding it. “As far as the Pacific Games Council is concerned, the 2019 Pacific Games will continue to be hosted by Tonga. The Tongan Pacific Games Association, its 2019 Games Organising Committee, many members of the Tongan Government and Parliament, and most importantly the Tongan people, all expect that the Games will happen in Tonga in 2019 and that they will be hosted
Vidhya Lakhan successfully, befitting Tonga’s proud sporting history,” he said. “I urge the Government to fully get behind the Games and move forward with the exciting plans they have developed to build the facilities and deliver the Games in conjunction with the Tonga 2019 Pacific Games Organising Committee.”
Lord Sevele’s take Speaking to Radio New Zealand International, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Games Organising Committee, Lord Sevele, said eight months on work is yet to begin and uncertainty remains. “From what we have been told by Government officials they have not confirmed the funding, the amount, nor the timing of it,” he said. “We have been told that Papua New Guinea would be forthcoming in assistance but we haven’t seen anything as yet to confirm that. “Be that as it may, I think we as a nation - and we’ve been saying this to the Prime Minister - it is our responsibility to rebuild Teufaiva, the national stadium that we have. “We had planned that. We’ve got some of the funds and...(Australia and) New Zealand had contributed some of the funds. We, Ton-
ga, should pick up the balance and it’s not that much - as a national stadium we should be prepared to put our hands in our pocket and fund it. “We have the plan and if we were allowed to do that we were going to start the rebuild of Teufaiva in March of this year. (It was) all ready to go, the Minister of Finance informed us that the funds were there...and look it’s not insurmountable. “Our schedule was for Teufaiva to be ready by March of next year so that the proposed visit of the Wales rugby team would take place. Now it’s not going to happen,” said Lord Sevele. “My advice is let the people who are conversing with these type of developers - people who have been doing this type of work for years - let them continue with that and let the politicians be politicians and their function, the government’s function, is to provide the funding and allow us to move forward.”
TASANOC’s stand TASANOC’s interim Secretary General and CEO Takitoa Taumoepeau said Government is delaying the works. He said PM Pohiva should allow those who have been
Lord Sevele delegated the responsibility to carry on with the work that needs to be done. “In fact everything would have been in place already if the people who were selected to do the work had continued,” he told Nuku’alofa Times. “Government’s reps had been working well with our people and we had identified a company to start the work, the funds have come in but when the Prime Minister stepped in everything stalled.”
Reduce costs PM Pohiva has told RNZI that government would review existing regulations to make sure the majority of work for the 2019 Games relied on the government’s Facility Committee and not the Organising Committee led by Lord Sevele. He said even though the Supreme Court has reinstated Lord Sevele as chair of the South Pacific Games Organising Committee his part in preparations for the Games would be minimal. He added that this was to reduce spending as much as possible so money could be spent on sport. He said that in 2015 alone the government spent $1 million pa’anga on the committee’s salaries and operational costs.
Hon. Pohiva said foreign governments and donors sacrificed part of their people’s taxes so they could help fund Tonga’s preparation for the Games. He said he wanted Tonga to repay that sacrifice by cutting costs and allowances wherever it could. He said members of the Facility Committee were government officials and were paid their normal salaries. Hon. Pohiva said he was not paid for his work as chair of the Committee.
PNG Funding Meanwhile, PM Pohiva has stated that the delegation from Papua New Guinea will return to Tonga next month as part of the country’s promise to help the kingdom funding the sport. PNG Sport Minister Justin Tkatchenko led a delegation to Tonga earlier this year to see what areas his country could fund. Hon. Pohiva said he met the PNG officials at the United Nations meeting in New York last month. He said PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill assured Tonga his country would still assist the Games preparation and that they, PNG, were waiting their government’s budget to be passed by Parliament in November.