Pacific Games Council head Vidhya Lakhan claims Tonga are at risk of losing the 2019 event ©ITG

An internal struggle within the Organising Committee for Tonga 2019 could force the Pacific Games Council (PGC) to strip the nation of the event, they have been warned.

Tongan publication the Nuku’alofa Times has reported that Vidhya Lakhan, President of the PGC, has offered a stern threat to organisers of the Games in three years’ time.

It comes after a leaked Audit and Governance Authority letter called for the resignation of Feleti Sevele, the former Tongan Prime Minister, from his role as chairman and chief executive of the Organising Committee.

Lakhan claimed the suggestion to remove him from his position contravened the Pacific Games Charter and Host Agreement.

“I urge members to cease and desist from further steps in contravention of the Pacific Games Charter and Host Agreement,” Lakhan, who has led the PGC since 2003, said.

“If this proposal advances without respect for these due processes, which the Tongan Government agreed to when signing the Host Agreement in 2012, PGC will instigate a full examination of the Host Agreement’s termination clauses and possibility of withdrawal of Tonga’s rights to host the 2019 Pacific Games.”

Sevele has denied the existence of the letter and suggested the move was a deliberate Governmental ploy to create tension as preparations for the Games in 2019 continue to struggle.

Back in July, Tonga Chamber of Commerce President John Chapman urged the Government to pull out of hosting of the 2019 Pacific Games amid intensifying concerns over the financing of the Games.

Chapman’s comments followed Tonga Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva claiming the financial position of the country was unsatisfactory and warned it may be impossible for the Pacific nation to prepare for the Games properly.

The row concerns Tonga 2019 chairman Feleti Sevele after a leaked letter emerged calling for his resignation
The row concerns Tonga 2019 chairman Feleti Sevele after a leaked letter emerged calling for his resignation ©Getty Images

The financial concerns surrounding the event have been alleviated slightly by China’s pledge of $17.6 million (£12.2 million/€15.4 million) to help build facilities for the Games.

Venue construction was put back not long after the conclusion of the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby as the Government attempted to raise the required funds.

Tonga is still expected to begin building facilities at some point this year.

Other nations, including Papua New Guinea, considered one of the richer Pacific countries, have also offered to help.

PGC chief executive Andrew Minogue insisted they were happy with the state of preparations, despite the continuing fears over costs and readiness, but admitted they needed to “see those efforts step up pretty quickly”.

“It's traditional that around the time of the Olympics, maybe a little bit after, the Olympic Committee will have their quadrennial elections and that will then set the team in place that will go through and deliver the Games and the Tongan team for the Games," he said.

"I think the next few months will give the opportunity for everybody to set a course for 2019.

“We are interested in that happening.

"We're happy with the level of support and progress that's been made but we've obviously got to see those efforts step up pretty quickly as we are now really only just about three years away from the event itself."