School drop-outs, illegal drugs and health three major concerns for Tonga’s new PM

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Tonga has many urgent needs and three major concerns for new Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni, are health, illegal drugs and school dropouts.

“There’s a lot and that is why it’s important to have a good team to work with,” he told a press conference, Wednesday following his election to the top job by the Legislative Assembly, winning 16 votes out of 26 representatives.

At 51 years old he is the fifth and youngest Prime Minister, to take office since Tonga’s 2010 electoral reform.

He was asked what Tonga’s most urgent needs are today.

“There are three issues of concern now. With education it is the number of dropouts –we need to reduce school dropouts.”

He said that illegal drugs, and health relating to COVID-19 with Tonga’s high rate of non-communicable diseases, also remained major concerns.

During this general election he said that his constituency was very important for him because he went out to meet people and to learn about their needs.

In the lead up to Wednesday’s vote for PM, he had to talk to other elected representatives and he said that some had similar views about working together to build Tonga. There were also issues where they disagreed. “But it is most important to talk to each other,” he said.

On 18 November he won 2084 votes in the Tongatapu no, 3 constituency which includes his home of Ngele’ia, an impoverished suburb in the capital Nuku’alofa, with a high crime rate related to illicit drugs.

Sovaleni is a former civil servant and became Minister of Education and Training in October 2019 in Prime Minister Tu’i’onetoa’s cabinet. He had previously held office as a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Environment and Communication in the late Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva’s cabinet (2014-17).

The elected representatives to the Legislative Assembly also re-elected the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, both Ha’apai Noble’s representatives.

Lord Fakafanua, also a young parliamentarian at 36-years-old, was re-elected as the Speaker. He first entered parliament in 2010 at the age of 24, and first became Speaker in 2012.

The deputy Speaker is the Ha’apai no. 2 Noble’s representative, Lord Tu’iha’anganga.

Lord Fakafanua said that during the last parliament the Speaker had a closer working relationship with the government than before.

“But there are amendments to be made to sharpen the working of the house internally,” he said.

He believed that the role of the House is to keep in check the government and it is the responsibility of the House to work in cooperation with government to build the country…..

SOURCE: TONGA WIRES/PACNEWS