TONGAN DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT SUPPORTED BY NEW ZEALAND

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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (March 21, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---Tonga's Human Rights and Democracy Movement has reported receiving direct assistance from the New Zealand government.

Wellington is currently paying for one of the movement’s members to receive a seven-week human rights training course in Switzerland.

The movement's leader, ‘Akilisi Pohiva, said New Zealand’s involvement in Tonga’s democracy movement is a breakthrough.

"This is the first time New Zealand’s government is making such a contribution," he said. "We’re pleased to see that the international democratic community is now beginning to provide support for work in Tonga."

Pohiva expects other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Great Britain to also provide support for Tonga’s efforts to implement democratic reforms.

He said the Tongan government should not characterize the support as direct interference by New Zealand in Tonga’s internal political affairs.

"Tonga’s government should understand that it is a member of the Commonwealth and just last year became a member of the United Nations," he said. "Being a member of those two international organizations, we should uphold democratic principles such as accountability, transparency, and human rights."

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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