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8th NFIP Conference
Arue, Tahiti

MEDIA RELEASE September 22, 1999

Democratic Government For Tonga: Akilisi Pohiva

The Tongan Human Rights and Democracy Movement (THRD) will continue to fight for the promotion of the rights of all Tongans and to eventually achieve its goal in the establishment of a democratic government elected by the people, stated THRD leader Akilisi Pohiva today.

Pohiva was speaking at the 8th Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) conference in Arue, Tahiti, in a panel on "Human Rights and Good Governance."

Mr. Pohiva says the THRD’s Constitutional Review Committee has completed its work on a draft constitution, which proposes two major changes.

"The first major change is the restructure of the Legislative Assembly and the Executive Branch of government, which shifts the power of the monarchy to the executive, or the ministers elected by the people."

"The second major change is the reallocation of the land rights as to give people a fair share of the monetary benefits gained from the land resources."

A people's representative in the Tongan parliament, Mr. Pohiva says that between now and the year 2002, the THRD will be working hard on preparation for a national referendum to be held before the next election.

He said the referendum should ask, "Should the people elect all the members of parliament including nobles representatives and all government ministers?"

The Tongan Deputy Prime Minister has stated that they would need time to consider the request by the Movement for the referendum and they would give their reply later.

"Ours is a struggle against an authoritarian ruler who is well protected by a constitution designed by a Western administrator and advisers," Mr. Pohiva said. He added that "the fundamental issue our movement has been dealing with in the past nine years or so has been the lack of injustice and accountability in our government."

He quoted a judgment made by Justice Finnegan in the Supreme Court of Tonga on a defamation case made against him for calling the King a dictator: "It is not shown to my satisfaction that the accused said the king is a dictator. But if he did then, in their context, those words can only mean the King is an authoritarian ruler, who ignores my repeated requests for accountability by himself and his ministers...If he said that, it appears to me to be the truth. Taking into account the evidence by the accused during the trial it appears to me not surprising that his attempts to obtain accountability in a system which does not provide for it are ignored."

Mr. Pohiva stated that despite the fact that the Tongan government has been called on several occasions to account for incompetency, maladministration and misuse of public funds by some of the ministers and senior officers, lack of accountability still prevails up to this moment. He said the Tongan royal family, like the Suharto family in Indonesia, has taken over most of the profitable business options available in the country.

Mr. Pohiva quoted a statement he made in reply to a court case filed against him by the King: "The only way for the King to evade criticisms is a total isolation from the law, making the executive position to become an honorary King, like the King of Britain and other dynasties in Europe. The only leader in the universe that cannot be subjected to criticisms is Jehovah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His reign is righteous and flawless…His leadership is free of prejudice and unchallenged."

Twice jailed for speaking out, Mr. Pohiva stated that taking the government to court on human rights and democracy issues has been a painful and costly exercise.

"As an example, I took government to the court, after a long battle to get the government account for the unlawful selling of Tongan naturalization passports. A few days before the trial, the Tongan government, under the royal command of His Majesty, called an emergency meeting of parliament only to pass retrospective legislation legalizing the unlawful action taken by the government, thus bringing an end to that long struggle for accountability."

The 8th NFIP Conference continues over the next two days at Arue Tahiti.

For further information, contact Stanley Simpson or Maire Bopp du Pont at TEL: (689) 413694 or 413696



MEDIA RELEASE September 22, 1999

Second Revolution For Vanuatu: Hilda Lini

Hilda Lini, a former member of parliament and leading figure in the independence movement in Vanuatu, today called for a second revolution in her country, saying they had strayed away from the goals they had set at independence.

Delivering the keynote address on ‘Human Rights and Good Governance’ at the 8th Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) Conference in Arue, Tahiti, Ms. Lini said Vanuatu was not adhering to the Constitution preamble established at independence. The preamble states that the Republic of Vanuatu is founded on Melanesian indigenous values, traditions and in God.

"From my own point of view, Vanuatu needs a people's revolution to really put it back where we wanted it to be when we were fighting for independence," Ms Lini said. "What we are saying is that indigenous wisdom, science, technology, value systems and indigenous democracy as we know it is our key to the year 2000. If we continue with all this Western crap that we have been continuing with since they colonized us, we will never be free."

Ms. Lini is the sister of former Vanuatu Prime Minister and leader of the independence movement, Father Walter Lini, who passed away early this year. She has been coordinating groups on indigenous awareness programs, which are developing a strong presence in the islands of Vanuatu.

"Since 1996 we have been running an awareness program to the indigenous chiefs of Vanuatu, because I believe they still have lots of power, but they don't know when or how to use it because it conflicts with Western laws.

"Having worked from the village level, and gone up to government and right up to the international level of negotiating at the United Nations, I have found that power is still in the hands of your people in the community. If you make the change there, then the change can go up."

Ms. Lini said the influence of Western education and in-fighting among the leaders weakened the goals they had set themselves at independence and affected the development of Vanuatu.

"In the fight for independence, the leaders were united, but after independence they began to fight among themselves and this affected the development of Vanuatu."

Ms. Lini stated that she resigned in 1996 from her brother’s political party because she could not accept the way political parties were handling issues in Vanuatu and the way politicians were playing with and abusing power.

She challenged the delegates at the NFIP conference and Pacific Island countries to follow the example of Vanuatu and New Zealand and declare themselves Nuclear Free States, stating that they could not depend on the Rarotonga Treaty, as it was too weak.

"The Rarotonga Treaty is allowing the nuclear waste shipments to pass through the Pacific. It is not strong enough like the peoples charter for a NFIP which is what we want," she said.

The 8th NFIP Conference continues over the next two days at Arue Tahiti.

For further information, contact Stanley Simpson or Maire Bopp du Pont at TEL: (689) 413694 or 413696

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