Ousted Cabinet Minister ‘Etuate Lavulavu’s use of the name ‘Etuate Fakaleitī in his response to a question from Kaniva News has been criticised for belittling the LGBT community.
He was also criticised for using another name in his response as ‘Etuate Ta’emali or ‘Etuate Unmarried.
The name ‘Etuate is Tongan for Edward. The word fakaleitī comes from the English word lady (leiti) and the addition of the prefix faka at the front to make it fakaleitī means a gay man.
The names ‘Etuate Fakaleiti and ‘Etuate Ta’emali have negative connotations in Tonga of decrying the importance of gay people and unmarried men being treated equally with straight men and married people.
As Kaniva News reported last week, Lavulavu was responding after we asked him whether he was the person to Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa mistakenly contacted to write the response to our questions.
Lavulavu, who is no stranger to courts, controversy or convictions did not deny it. Instead, he was evasive, swearing, dismissive and said there were many people called ‘Etuate.
In his response he said: “It can be Etuate Hafoka, Etuate Manuefetoa, Etuate Uata, Etuate Tuionetoa, Etuate Havea, Etuate Kuila, Etuate Kavenga, Etuate Taukolo, Etuate Hopoi , Etuate Cocker, Etuate Tupou, Etuate Tutoe, Etuate Fakaleiti, Etuate Taufalele, Etuate Taemali, Etuate Ta’e’iloa, Etuate Afeaki and just like many ‘Etuate there were also uu-etuate and uu-sione”.
The phrase uu-sione with which Lavulavu ended his list of names is known in Tongan as kapekape fakapoto or a calculated making up swearing words. It’s a mixture of the swear word ‘us_ and the name Sione to make it sounds he was referring to the plural form of name Sione by adding the sign of plural form word ‘ū at the front of the name, but the speaker’s intention was clearly swearing.
When Kaniva News shared the story about Lavulavu’s response last week, commentaters quickly blasted what they say as his mockery of gay men and unmarried people.
A commenter suggested that Lavulavu should be punished.
Another said he appeared to think he was above the law.
The criticisms of the Deputy Chair of the Tonga People’s Party came while the LGBT community was mourning the death of the Tongan human rights and LGBT activist Polikalepo Kefu.
His brutal killing last Friday night has sent shock waves across Tonga and overseas.
Kefu was known for his work with Tonga’s Red Cross, the local media association and as a voice for youth.
He was also president of the local LGBTQI+ rights group and always a staunch support of local movements which fight for the right of gay people.
Last year Lavulavu attacked Tonga’s crisis centre for women (WCCC), saying its service was not needed in Tonga.
He reportedly said the organisation was only operating to get funding to help its employees and staff.
WCCC is the largest and most effective service provider to women and children in Tonga who are victims or survivors of violence.
WCCC’s Director ‘Ofa Gutteinbeil Likiliki was reported by local media as saying “It is a real shame that ‘Etuate Lavulavu made this political statement making baseless claims.”