The Office of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga refutes the claim published on the website Kanivatonga that “the Lord Tu’ilakepa’s appointment as Acting Speaker may have been unconstitutional according to Clause 61(4) of the Constitution.”
Chief Clerk of the Tonga Parliament, Gloria Pole’o, states, “An Acting Speaker appointment was not made as claimed because the Constitution of Tonga does not provide for appointment of an Acting Speaker. When the Speaker of the House Lord Fakafanua travels overseas, the Deputy Speaker Lord Tu’ilakepa performs the duties of the Speaker.
This practise accords with section 16(3) of the Legislative Assembly Act, which provides that when the Speaker is absent or not presiding in a meeting of the Assembly, the Deputy Speaker shall preside over the Assembly and perform the duties of the Speaker until the Speaker is able to resume the chair and perform his duties. The Deputy Speaker Lord Tu’ilakepa, was duly appointed to the position of Deputy Speaker, and he performs the duties of the Speaker Lord Fakafanua whenever he is absent.”
Pole’o also pointed out that, “Clause 61(4) of the Constitution applies only when the position of Speaker of Parliament is vacant. The same provision clearly outlines occurrences that will result in a vacancy, which includes death, resignation or revocation of appointment of the Speaker. If the Speaker is not in the country or absent from meetings of the Assembly for reasons other than those spelled out in Clause 61 of the Constitution, it does not result in a vacancy.
Therefore, Clause 61(4) of the Constitution does not apply. There is a very clear distinction between “vacancy” in the position of Speaker which invokes Clause 61(4) of the Constitution, and “absence” of the Speaker which invokes section 16(3) of the Legislative Assembly Act.”