By Philip Cass
AUCKLAND (Kaniva Tonga/Pacific Media Watch): Two MPS with strong Tongan ties have joined a contingent of four Pasifika politicians to win places in the new Labour cabinet.
MP for Māngere, Aupito Su'a William Sio, who has been Labour’s spokesperson for Pacific Island Affairs and Inter-Faith Dialogue, said Carmel Sepuloni and Jenny Salesa had been selected as ministers, along with Kris Fa’afoi, whose family came from Tokelau.
MP for Christchurch East, Poto Williams, who is of Cook Islands descent, will become chair of a parliamentary select committee.
Aupito will also be a cabinet member in the new government.
For the first time Labour has six MPs of Pacific descent, with the election of list candidate Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki, whose family came from Tonga.
“This is a fantastic achievement that we got because of the overwhelming support from our Pacific community.
“Out of the six Pacific MPs we have, five have been given leadership roles in the new Labour Government with Anahila placed in a position to learn, grow and develop into her new MP role," Aupito said.
“I want to convey to our Tongan community my deepest gratitude for their wonderful support of me and of the Labour Party.
“I am especially grateful to the people of Māngere for their faith and belief in me as their representative.
“The result for me in Māngere was I got 18,810 votes with a majority of 14,597 with the highest Labour Party vote in the country of 19,931.”
Aupito said he was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotion of gratitude, excitement and humility.
He said that during nine years of National government inequality had grown and the gap between rich and poor had become worse, especially for Pasifika communities.
“I know that our Pacific communities have huge expectations of us in the Labour-led Government.
“We are committed to bringing about change to better the lives of our community and with everyone’s help we will set out to do so.”
Labour's next steps
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will announce the distribution of portfolios today.
The new ministers will be sworn in next Thursday.
Parliament will be sworn in at the beginning of November.
Dr Philip Cass is a research associate with the Pacific Media Centre and associate editor of Pacific Journalism Review. He is a senior lecturer at Unitec Institute of Technology and is a regular contributor for Kaniva Tonga.