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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (December 14, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---The Tongan government says criticism from New Zealand Greens Party MP Keith Locke over a water project is based on ignorance.

Locke, during a visit to Tonga, said the NZ$ 40,000 (US$ 16,000) spent on cement water tanks for families living on the edge of a rubbish dump at Popua could have been better spent on other aid projects.

For example, he said, the money could have been used to pay for human rights work or education.

But Tongan government spokesperson Eseta Fusitua said Locke doesn't have all the facts.

"Popua is government land," said Fusitua in an interview with Pacific Beat’s Bruce Hill.

"Every occupant of land in Papua has . . . come to the government and begged to get a piece of land to register or to lease. When the government grants their wish, that land is given for free," Fusitua said.

Most people in Papua would choose clean water over education, she added.

"You have a plane load of officials from one country going from island to island in the Pacific and telling those islands what they are supposed to do, where they are right and where they are wrong," Fusitua said. "This is the 21st century. That kind of diplomacy is over."

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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