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Willy Telavi (born 28 January 1954) is a Tuvaluan politician who was Prime Minister of Tuvalu from 2010 to 2013.

Willy Telavi
11th Prime Minister of Tuvalu
In office
24 December 2010 – 1 August 2013
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor-GeneralIakoba Italeli
Preceded byMaatia Toafa
Succeeded byEnele Sopoaga
Minister for Home Affairs
In office
16 August 2006 – 23 September 2011
Prime MinisterApisai Ielemia
Maatia Toafa
Preceded byAunese Simati
Succeeded byPelenike Isaia
Member of the Tuvaluan Parliament
for Nanumea
In office
3 August 2006 – 25 August 2014
Preceded bySio Patiale
Succeeded bySatini Manuella
Personal details
Born (1954-01-28) 28 January 1954 (age 65)
Nanumea, Gilbert and Ellice Islands
(now Tuvalu)
Political partyIndependent
Alma materUniversity of the South Pacific
Charles Darwin University

Telavi was first elected to parliament in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010.[1] He became prime minister on 24 December 2010 and the Telavi Ministry retained government until August 2013. The refusal of prime minister Telavi to recall the Parliament of Tuvalu after the 2013 Nukufetau by-election resulted in a constitutional crisis when he adopted the position that, under the Constitution of Tuvalu, he was only required to convene parliament once a year, and was thus under no obligation to summon it until December 2013.[2] The opposition then requested the Governor-General of Tuvalu, Sir Iakoba Italeli, to intervene against the Telavi’s decision.[3] On 3 July, Governor-General Italeli exercised his reserve powers in ordering parliament to convene, against the prime minister Telavi's wishes, on 30 July.[4] On 1 August 2013 Governor-General Italeli again exercised his reserve powers and dismissed Telavi as Prime Minister of Tuvalu and appointed the opposition leader Enele Sopoaga as Tuvalu’s caretaker prime minister.[5] A day later, on 2 August 2013, Telavi's government was successfully brought down through a vote of no confidence in parliament.[6] He resigned from parliament in August 2014.[1][7] He was absent for much of the parliamentary year tending to his sick wife in Hawaii, and he resigned in order to remain at his wife's side.[7]


Telavi is from Nanumea. His career in the Tuvalu police force culminated in his appointment as police commissioner in 1993, a position he held for thirteen years. He earned a degree in legal studies from the University of the South Pacific in 1999 and a master's degree in international management from Northern Territory University in 2000.[8] Willy Telavi was appointed to his current position in May 1993, he has served more than 16 years in various positions with the Tuvalu police force.[8]

Ministerial officeEdit

Telavi stood for the Parliament of Tuvalu in 2006 and was elected to serve the constituency of Nanumea. The government of prime minister Apisai Ielemia came to office following the election. Telavi was appointed minister for home affairs in the Ielemia administration.[9]

He retained his seat in parliament in the 2010 general election, and was appointed minister for home affairs in the cabinet of the new prime minister, Maatia Toafa.[10]

Prime MinisterEdit

In December, just four months after the new government took office, Telavi crossed the floor, joined the opposition and enabled it to bring down the government through a motion of no confidence, carrying it by eight votes to seven. The motion was reportedly initiated due to MPs' concerns over certain aspects of the budget, in particular the prospect that the government may no longer fully fund patients' medical costs abroad.[11] On 24 December Telavi was elected as the prime minister, defeating foreign affairs and environment minister Enele Sopoaga by another 8–7 vote.[12] Appointing his cabinet on the same day,[13] he appointed himself to continue as minister for home affairs.[14] (That position was subsequently given to Pelenike Isaia.)[15]

It was under Telavi's premiership that Tuvalu became, in November 2011, a founding member of the Polynesian Leaders Group, a regional grouping intended to co-operate on a variety of issues including culture and language, education, responses to climate change, and trade and investment.[16][17][18]

In March 2012, Telavi paid a state visit to Abkhazia, meeting president Alexander Ankvab.[19] Under Telavi's leadership, in September 2011, Tuvalu had become one of only six countries to grant diplomatic recognition to Abkhazia as a sovereign state.[20] The two countries, during Telavi's visit, agreed on free movement of each other's citizens between them, without the need for visas. In addition, Telavi was leading a Tuvaluan delegation of electoral monitors for that month's Abkhazian parliamentary election.[21] As a response, Georgia cut off diplomatic relations with Tuvalu.[22]

Telavi delayed calling a by-election after the death of Lotoala Metia, an MP from Nukufetau, until ordered by the High Court to call the by-election.[23][24] On 28 June 2013, the Telavi government lost a crucial by-election in Nukufetau, which gave the opposition a majority of one in parliament. The opposition immediately called for the government to reconvene parliament.[25] Prime Minister Telavi responded that, under the Constitution, he was only required to convene parliament once a year, and was thus under no obligation to summon it until December 2013.[26] The opposition turned to the governor-general, Iakoba Italeli. On 3 July, Italeli exercised his reserve powers in ordering parliament to convene, against the prime minister's wishes, on 30 July.[27]

On that date, as the government was about to face a motion of no confidence, health minister Taom Tanukale unexpectedly resigned from parliament (and thus also from the government) altogether. He was not the first government member to vacate or temporarily leave office: Lotoala Metia had died (and an opposition member had been elected at the resulting by-election), education minister Falesa Pitoi had become ill and had been outside the country since December 2012. Tanukale's resignation therefore left Telavi with only three active government members other than himself: deputy prime minister Kausea Natano, foreign affairs minister Apisai Ielemia, and home affairs minister Pelenike Isaia (there were no government backbenchers). He also had the support of the Speaker.[28]

The following day, the reason for Tanukale's resignation became apparent. The speaker, Kamuta Latasi, rejected the opposition's attempt to table a motion of no confidence, on the grounds that there was now a vacant seat in parliament. Latasi adjourned parliament, and ruled that it would not reconvene until a by-election had been held – thus prolonging Telavi's minority government once more.[29] However, a day later, on 1 August 2013, the governor-general sent out a proclamation removing Telavi as the prime minister of Tuvalu.[5] He was subsequently replaced by opposition leader Enele Sopoaga, who becomes caretaker prime minister.[5] Opposition member Taukelina Finikaso alleged that the prime minister had attempted to remove Sir Iakoba Italeli as governor-general of Tuvalu, prompting Telavi's removal described as 'upholding' the Tuvaluan constitution.[5] His government was successfully removed from office a day later by Parliament, on 2 August 2013.[6]

Willy Telavi defended his actions in not calling the by-election or recalling parliament, and placed the responsibility for the constitution crisis with the governor general, who he says intervened only five days after the by-election, “Though he got the power to do that, we are a small country where we can consult each other without resorting to this kind of exercising of powers”.[30]

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. ^ a b "Former Tuvalu PM quits parliament". Radio New Zealand International. 26 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  2. ^ "Parliament needs one yearly meeting only says defiant Tuvalu PM". Radio New Zealand International. 2 July 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  3. ^ Coutts, Geraldine (2 July 2013). "Tuvalu opposition demands parliament be allowed to sit after weekend by-election". Radio Australia. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  4. ^ Matau, Robert (3 July 2013). "Tuvalu's parliament convenes July 30". Islands Business. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Matua, Robert (1 August 2013). "GG appoints Sopoaga as Tuvalu's caretaker PM". Islands Business. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Tuvalu opposition votes out government". Radio New Zealand International. 3 August 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Tuvalu to hold by-election after MP resignation". Radio Australia. 25 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Commissioner Willy Telavi". Charles Darwin University - News Archive. 28 August 2006. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  9. ^ Tuvalu: Cabinet, Central Intelligence Agency
  10. ^ "New Tuvalu PM Maatia Toafa names cabinet". Radio Australia. 29 September 2010. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  11. ^ "Nominations open for new Tuvalu PM". Radio New Zealand International. 22 December 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  12. ^ "Willie Telavi the new prime minister in Tuvalu". Radio New Zealand International. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  13. ^ "New Tuvalu government sworn in", Radio New Zealand International, 29 December 2010
  14. ^ "Tuvalu – Heads of Government Listing", Australian Department of Foreign Affairs
  15. ^ "Composition du gouvernement des îles Tuvalu", French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, 23 September 2011
  16. ^ "NZ may be invited to join proposed ‘Polynesian Triangle’ ginger group", Pacific Scoop, 19 September 2011
  17. ^ "New Polynesian Leaders Group formed in Samoa". Radio New Zealand International. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  18. ^ "American Samoa joins Polynesian Leaders Group, MOU signed", Savali, 19 November 2011
  19. ^ "Tuvalu PM Arrives in Abkhazia", Ria Novosti, 7 March 2012
  20. ^ "Tuvalu becomes sixth state to recognize Abkhazia", Ria Novosti, 23 September 2011
  21. ^ "Tiny Tuvalu's Officials In Abkhazia For Visa-Free Deal, Monitoring", Radio Free Europe, 9 March 2012
  22. ^ (17 February 2012). "Georgia Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Tuvalu". Civil Georgia. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  23. ^ "Attorney General, In re Application under Section 131(1) of the Constitution of Tuvalu [2014] TVHC 15; Civil Case 1.2013 (24 May 2013)". PACLII. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  24. ^ Matau, Robert (June 2013). "Tuvalu's high court orders by-election to be held". Islands Business. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  25. ^ "Tuvalu’s Opposition waiting to hear from GG", Islands Business, 1 July 2013
  26. ^ "Parliament needs one yearly meeting only says defiant Tuvalu PM", Radio New Zealand International, 2 July 2013
  27. ^ "Tuvalu’s parliament convenes July 30", Islands Business, 3 July 2013
  28. ^ "Tuvalu govt bombshells", Islands Business, 30 July 2013
  29. ^ "Tuvalu in constitutional crisis, says opposition", Radio New Zealand International, 31 July 2013
  30. ^ Cooney, Campbell (7 August 2013). "Former Tuvalu PM defends his actions before no confidence motion". Australia News Network. Retrieved 10 August 2013.