King Tupou VI has expressed his concern about government spending on business ventures and questioned whether the money was used transparently.

He also urged government to put an end to illicit drugs use in Tonga, which along with climate change posed “great threats to our children and our lives.”

The King’s speech at Tonga’s Legislative Assembly 2023-2024 soft closing session Thursday, was delivered by Lord Tangi ‘o Vaonukonuka, accompanied by Lord Ve’ehala and Lord Niukapu. The King was not present.

The King’s speech questioned whether tax money was used wisely and transparently, emphasising accountability to the people. He was concerned about the openness of the Government in operating its businesses using tax money.

“Was the money well spent? Has it been useful for the people of the country?” the King asked.

“The Government is accountable to the people, and the Legislative Assembly’s role is to follow through with how and where the tax money is being used, and, in accordance with the law.”

The King also questioned the availability of the services of the Anti-corruption Commision and the Ombudsman.

“Are the services of the Anti-corruption Commision and the Ombudsman working? Are they used and available for every citizen?

The King urged the government to focus on its core duties rather than expanding into the business sector. “The Government must remain focused on carrying out its works.”

He expressed a concern over stalled public works, due to lack of funds, and in this condition, he questioned whether it benefitted the country.

He urged members of the House to leave the Private Sector to operate what it is capable of running.

The King said the best example was the Tonga Power Board. Since the Government took over its operations, they had not been able to reduce the electricity costs, in line with what it stated when it moved the operation away from private business.

The King also questioned the operation of the domestic airline (Lulutai Airlines). “Why is the Government secretly managing the airline, instead of recruiting experts in civil aviation?”

The King was concerned that illicit drugs remained a pressing issue in Tonga, and that members of Parliament “aren’t taking this situation seriously.”

“Despite our determination to counter the spread of illicit drugs but we are still countering this problem. It is internationally produced for an international market. Where are we heading with this problem?” he asked.

He said that the most severe penalties should be given to those dealing with illicit drugs, because it has put the children, and the future of the country, in danger. With climate change, “these two are great threats to our children and our lives.”

Lastly, he urged, “We can put an end to illicit drugs, now!”

The Prime Minister Hon. Hu’akavameiliku, and Speaker of the House, Lord Fakafanua attended the soft closing, as well as members of the House, and members of the diplomatic corps.

Meanwhile, the State opening of the Legislative Assembly’s 2024-2025 session is set for 16 May.