February 28, 2002

By Sitiveni Finau

In 1985, New Zealand in pursuing a policy of nuclear non-proliferation, put a halt to visits by nuclear ships to its territories. This flew flat in the face of French defense policy, an obvious affront to the powerful European nation. It seemed that France cannot stand the thought of some puny Pacific Island country, deciding for itself, what was in its own interest. On the night of July 10, 1985, members of the French secret service blew up the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbor, sinking the vessel and murdering the ship’s photographer, in a sabotage mission that the then Prime Minister, David Lange described as "a sordid act of international state-backed terrorism."

Regrettably, NZ, with a policy of actively violating Tonga’s independence, is showing the same level of sordid arrogance and self-righteousness that has been the hallmarks of countries with illusions of power and moral superiority. The doctrine of national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the accepted norm in international relations, and is widely observed between nations of good will. Any breach of this understanding, is therefore treated as an act of unwarranted hostility, and of malicious intent.

But NZ, or so it says, only has honorable intentions. She is out there to help the "average" Tongan. In a nation presumed to be endemically corrupt, NZ still holds out hopes for redeeming the common man. But its assumption about the mythical "average" Tongan is just as devastatingly simplistic, and just as horribly wrong. It is very hard to buy into a vision that makes out Tongans as these clueless and helpless cowards, that needs beings of superior intelligence, and foreigners with money, to come in and enlighten, and infuse with doses of wisdom, courage and conviction. In contrast, I believe in the genius and common sense of the general populace to work towards its own good, at its own rate, in its own way, without outside interventions and designs.

NZ’s interventionist posture is accompanied by relentless attacks on Tonga by the foreign media in general, and a Mr. [Michael] Field in particular. It seems strange that Robson's pronouncement, in a blatant outburst of name calling, character assassinating and country smearing, ostracizing the Tongan people as being "endemically corrupt," is perfectly acceptable to Mr. Fields and those of his ilk. When those of us who know such characterization to be at odds with the reality responded, Mr. Field cries "foul" and mourns the personal attacks on Mr. Robson and on all New Zealanders. The one-eyed Mr. Field seems to miss the bitter irony of this bit of journalistic hypocrisy, and causes one to question his integrity as a newsman and his standing as a serious reporter.

The outlook for Tonga is a matter of serious concern. But whatever design the country’s system evolves into, it will need a lot of time. There is simply no need to hitch the country’s rate of change to somebody’s mortality and limited life span. We must accept, with some humility, that the country can get along quite well without one’s contribution, and that the nation cannot be forced into a trajectory that is locked into anyone’s career and life achievement time frame.

What Tonga needs now is time and space. Time to construct the new from the old. And space to move freely, as it makes its way from the present towards a prosperous future.

Sitiveni Finau Email: 

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