Tongan king and noble donate to cash-strapped athletes

King Tupou VI has donated nearly US$9000 to help the country's athletes get to the Pacific Games in Samoa next month. Picture: RNZ

NUKU’ALOFA, 01 JULY 2019 (RNZ PACIFIC) – The King of Tonga and a noble have stepped in to address a funding shortfall for the country’s Pacific Games athletes.

King Tupou VI has donated nearly US$9000 to help the country’s athletes get to the Pacific Games in Samoa next month.

Former Noble MP Lord Vaea, who is the King’s brother-in-law, has also pledged to match the donation.

The moves come after the King visited the team and was told they were short of funds.

In 2017, Tonga belatedly pulled out of hosting the games, with the government and Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva expressing fear the country would accumulate too much debt.

Tonga had campaigned and won the hosting rights during the tenure of the previous government.

Media and political observers pointed to animosity between Mr Pohiva and former Prime Minister Feleti Sevele, who headed Tonga’s Olympic Committee, as the real reason for the cancellation.

A court case is still pending after the Games Committee brought a multi-million dollar claim against the government for breach of contract.

As part of the funding efforts before the cancellation of the games, the government created a charge on foreign exchange transfers.

The levy is still being charged and but its use has not yet been accounted for.

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