Tongan student 37-year old ‘Ilifeleti Tovo of Kolomotu’a was elected President of the University of the South Pacific Students Association (USPSA) three weeks ago. Tovo, who says he is probably the fourth or fifth Tongan to hold the title, says that his presidency comes at a cost of some personal sacrifice for him.
Tovo said that when he was first approached by the Tongan Students Association (TSA) to be a candidate, he asked them (the TSA) to reconsider their choice of nominee.
“I gave them one week to reconsider because I wasn’t an active member of the TSA and I didn’t think I should be the Tongan students’ choice,” said Tovo.
After one week, the TSA called a meeting of its members and asked that Tovo attend. He went along thinking that it was a regular association meeting but later found out that it was a meeting to endorse his candidacy for the USPSA president elections.
However, that was not the end of it. For Tovo to be a candidate, he was to contest as a member of the Pacific Alliance Party, which for him was where the dilemma lay.
“The Baha’I religion does not condone party affiliations, so I asked the TSA if they still wanted me to stand as their nominee that I would have to be an independent candidate,” said Tovo.
I actually stepped down from the party just before the elections because I did not want to break my religious rules and ethics
Tovo also wrote to the National Spiritual Assembly of Fiji (Baha’I) twice – before and after the elections – to seek clarification of his participation. On both occasions the answer was the same – he was advised that he could not participate, nor could he take up the position if he won.